My firstborn started middle school this year. Shortly after school started, he turned twelve years old. On the eve of his birthday I did the thing moms do when their babies approach another birthday; I mentally added up how many years I had left with him. It hit me hard. There are only six more birthdays until he is 18. And worse than that, there are just a handful of ones left that he will still want to spend at home with his parents and brothers.
You see, he still spends the majority of his time with us. He doesn’t yet have a part- time job, a girlfriend, an honors class that pulls him into after-school study groups, or long weekends off with friends. He wakes up Saturday mornings and he hangs with his brothers, he goes on hikes with his dad, and he still snuggles up to read with me most afternoons. But the shift, the one that will take him out of childhood and into adulthood, is coming. I can almost see it before it happens. The shift from a boy, my boy, to an individual young adult. He will need to need us less. He will have to shed some of the binds that pull him toward us, to become his own person.
For twelve years I have raised him, shaped him, taught him what is right and what is wrong. Picked him up when he was down, given him boundaries, and encouraged him to take chances. I have held his hand and wiped his tears. I have rocked him to sleep, walked him to kindergarten, and watched him turn into a preteen. I have raised him. And while I still have a lot of raising to do, my job now more than ever is to prepare him to be an adult. Not to prepare him for big kid school, or sleep away camp, or how to always say “please” and “thank you.” He knows those things now. No, now my job is to teach him to questions things, to stand up for himself, to be wise enough to know what friends to keep and which ones to walk away from. I need him to know how to be strong enough to face the world on his own, without me.
You see, the shift for him is also a shift for me. I am no longer raising a child but a young man. The goal post has moved. I love him; he is my very first baby. It hurts and I don’t want the shift to happen, but it will, regardless. So I take time to listen to him, encourage him, and along the way I will teach him slowly to leave us behind. The greatest gift I was ever given was being his mom. He will grow up and leave, but I get to keep that title forever.