“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn’t have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves… for growing up.” ~ The Wonder Years
It’s a big day when you learn you need braces, just ask Boy Wonder.
For a few years now we’ve been practicing the steps of the prepubescent dance his body is so hell-bent on discovering. First it was male body wash, followed by boxer briefs and deodorant. I’ll admit, the idea of parenting a budding man-child was bittersweet, if not a little exciting. My kid was growing up and world, I think I was really OK about it.
It became abundantly clear to both of us sometime during his 8th year on this planet that I was, in fact, the stupidest person ever. He knew more than I did because he believed he did. Right or wrong, it didn’t really matter. He would be right, I would be wrong. He would be cool, I would be uncool. He expected me to read his mind and I tried.
We danced the dance. We stumbled. He blamed me. I punished him. Thank you, prepubescence.
I learned not to take it personally. Sure, it took a few years. I may have even flipped him off in my mind a few times (sheesh, I said may have – relax). When I finally realized this fugly tween attitude was a direct result of Boy Wonder having one foot in childhood and other in adolescence, I began to not only understand, I began to remember.
This is a kid who still plays with Legos and watches Wonder Pets, all while mastering the art of sarcasm, innuendo, and inside jokes. He uses skin pads, for like acne and stuff, yet insists on being tucked in and prayed with at bedtime.
One part boy. One part young man.
Last night as I tucked him in, we recounted the events of the day, including a consultation at the orthodontist. “Wow, braces,” I casually mentioned, “you’re really growing up.”
And then there were tears. And not from me.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked, “Are you afraid to wear braces?”
“No, Mom. It’s just going by so quickly. I feel like I’m growing up so fast. I still want to be a kid.”
Total gut sucker punch. Ugh, I wasn’t expecting that.
For the first time in a long time Boy Wonder allowed himself to be emotionally vulnerable. He’s made it so easy to think of him as older for so long now but his tears reminded me that he’s still very much a kid. Lori, how could you forget? He’s just a kid who knows changes are coming and he’s scared.
You guys, when I think about Boy Wonder heading into junior high, I feel scared and excited, proud and confused, grateful and sad. As hard as it can be for a mother to manage this flurry of contradictory emotions, at least I know what’s on the other side: wisdom and experience, growth and knowledge, character and substance. He doesn’t know that. How could he? All he knows is that growing up means changes. Changes in his body, changes in expectations, changes in responsibilities and changes in relationships. So many changes. Unquantifiable, misunderstood, unknown and confusing changes. Damn, that IS scary.
Changes coupled with the fear of leaving behind every comfort you’ve ever known and mastered in childhood? Even scarier.
As I sit down to write this post, it occurs to me that as Boy Wonder grows and yearns for more freedom and subsequent responsibility, a part of him is mourning the childhood freedom that comes from with having none.
I hugged my growing boy as his tears soaked my shoulder. I rubbed his back and silently wondered the last time he allowed me to absorb them. His tears, usually private and secondary to door slam, were born of internal conflict and fear.
Childhood, or at least the childhood my husband and I have worked so hard to provide, is indeed a precious thing and his has been filled with love, imagination, possibility and faith.
It warms my heart to know how hard saying goodbye to his childhood has been. I guess it means we did something right. Heck, I wouldn’t want to leave his childhood either. But more than any of that, I now realize my job is to help Boy Wonder realize that the best is yet to come. Because it is. It really, really is.