the last year of childhood

So my son will be 12 next week. A year left of childhood and already there are ever growing signs of the adolescent he will become, while here and there I even catch glimpses of the man he will grow up to be one day.

But still, I also see the endearing boy within, the little child still playing with his cars (sound effects included) even as his desire to be able to drive a real one lives side by side with his urgent ‘need’ for skinny black jeans.

My boy has his first crush on the lovely Sarah, the brainy red head tomboy (what great taste!) in his class. He was heart broken to learn yesterday she won’t make it to his birthday party this year. When I drop him at school, if she is nearby he still (bless him) kisses me goodbye but then drops his unbroken voice as deep as it will go to say ‘cool ma, see ya later’ before swaggering off, peeking at her out of the corner of his eye to see if she’s watching him.

My son is such a tender hearted and loving boy, the thought of anyone breaking his heart one day makes me feel inordinant amounts of impotent rage, knowing I can do nothing to help him through those times which surely lie ahead.

And that takes me right back to the day after I gave birth to him, when I was finally able to get to him in the premie ICU ward where he lay under lights, too small and vulnerable to even be in an incubator yet as they needed to be able to get to him. Spread on his tummy like a tiny frog, with pipes in his nose and mouth and needles coming out of his arms. And while I watched helplessly from the side a nurse picked up his miniscule foot and began sticking his heel repeatedly with a needle to get a drop of blood needed for yet another test – and he tried to cry. But the pipe down his throat would not let a sound come out, and his face was screwed up in pain and I could do nothing to help – not even hold him or stroke him or do ANYTHING to ease him through that moment. That is when it hit me that this baby was no longer part of me, inside me, where I could control what happened to him. And I will never forget that moment – for me the moment I became a mother – when the pain inside me on his behalf was so great that I was frozen in terror thinking – “what have I done? I can’t live with the fact that I cannot stop my own child feeling pain, confusion, terror.”

And yet I have lived and survived and so has he and we have become so incredibly close through the wonder years of childhood. And now we stand at the threshold of another experience, a new bend in the journey, and, as I feel him moving away from me, albeit slowly, into the world of manhood, I feel again some of that terror. I won’t be there when he has to make hard choices. When he has too much to drink and has to decide whether or not to drive. When he is offered drugs. When he is falling in love with someone who may hurt him in unimaginable ways.

I feel again, how can I do this? How do you let go – even though you know it’s the right, the only thing to do.

Today, we spent the day together and he got to choose what we did, where we went, what music we played in the car. He loves spending time with me. I know that increasingly he will choose other company over mine – it’s the way it should be. But for now I cherish each time that he looks up as I come into the room and his face lights up and he flings his arms around me and tells me he loves me SO much.

I only hope we can make it through this time and come out the other end good friends.

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4 Responses to the last year of childhood

  1. Merle says:

    Beautiful. My boy is also 12 and I so relate to what you have written. Slight difference is that he was adopted and it took time for him to bond with me. Many years. I wonder whether that means it will take time for him to separate

  2. 1000mitzvahs says:

    I have a twelve year old daughter and have savored every moment we have spent together this year anticipating that soon our relationship will manifest differently. What a beautiful and insightful piece about parenting.

    • Thank you! Sometimes the anticipation of the coming years leaves me feeling breathless with excitement and other times i feel almost squeezed by apprehension…

      I wonder if having more than one child makes it easier as you still have the next one/s coming up to parent? Do you have more than one child?

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