They told me it would happen. My sisters, my brother, my friends, strangers in line at the grocery. I didn't listen. In fact, I despised those words, "You're going to miss this stage."
The problem was timing. This was usually mentioned as I was changing the 10th dirty diaper of the day, trying to soothe an unsoothable colicky baby, or emotionally spent because my toddler refused to go number two in the potty; he didn't care how many damn M&M's I promised if he did.
Then the toddler years. Those days brought mood swings, crying, and separation anxiety. It was hard on my boys, too. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I worked less and had more time to enjoy two little boys who were still under the illusion that their mama was the best thing since whole milk and strawberry Quik. I couldn't wait until they were potty-trained. And then they were.
Then school starts. New friends, sleepovers, homework, birthday parties, sports, and on and on. Just when we'd start to figure out the proper way to construct the perfect diorama for science, it was time to lace up and head to ball practice. After a quick dinner, it was time to start the bedtime ritual of, "Can you read that book one more time? I'm thirsty. I hear a weird noise. I'm hungry. Tell me a story. Tell me another story. My stomach hurts. Can I sleep with you?"
I distinctively remember waking up one morning. I was on the bottom edge of the bed, Jay clung to the opposite edge while our two boys slumbered peacefully in the middle. He looked at me and said, "I feel like I was in a boxing match last night. Jackson kicked me in the eye. Is it black?" We couldn't wait until they started sleeping in their own rooms. And then they did.
Then middle school. More new friends, more homework, sports, school plays, puberty. This is also the stage in which my kids had their first experiences of being left out of something. That's the worst. As a mom, you want to fix it and you can't. If I'm being honest you really want to smack the little twit and their parents responsible for your kid's heartbreak. Instead, you just listen and wait and feel totally helpless and not sleep and pray that he will be OK and you can get through this without going insane. Because when your kids are hurt, you hurt until they feel better. And he gets through that and many other little life hiccups along the way. Still you can't imagine anything worse than seeing your 12-year-old little boy sad. I couldn't wait until he matured enough to not let little things get to him. And then he did.
Then high school (for the oldest). Fitting in, different friends, hormones, tougher academics, more accountability, girls, mistakes. And when your teenager makes mistakes, it's hard... on both of you. But the magical thing about life is it goes on. They learn from their mistakes and you do, too. They learn that calling BEFORE your curfew to say you will be a few minutes late is better than calling 10 minutes past. You learn that making mistakes and/or using poor judgment doesn't mean your child won't be a success. It just means he's human.
I would love to keep him in a bubble and helicopter him into his 30s mistake-free. Then what? Without downs there's no ups. Without failure there's no success. Without mistakes, there's no maturity. On a side note, without teenagers, there's no need for alcohol or chocolate.
Then this. We went to dinner tonight, my 16 year old and me. He talked and talked and talked. When he would say something that I wanted to correct, I tried something different. I listened. As he sat across from me, wide-eyed and smiling, I realized that sometimes he just needs to talk and he needs to know that I hear his voice. When the waitress started giving me the side-eye, we decided it was time to head home. On the way out, he put his arm around my shoulder. When he did that, I said the one thing I knew he'd appreciate, "What do you want, and how much does it cost?"
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