My son just turned 13. Did you get teary-eyed? Shiver? Smile with bittersweet nostalgia? That number is one that every mother looks towards as a huge turning point. As if reaching that number is going to magically turn your child into an unrecognizable being. And while yes, my son is vastly different at 13 than he was at three or nine or even 12, he is still mostly the same amazing, kind, laid back, intelligent, honest kid ever.
I won’t lie. I dreaded this milestone from the time I found out I was pregnant, as I was teaching seventh grade at the time and dealing with all things 13 for many years. I was well-versed in body order, growth spurts, hormones, and snarky attitudes. So I knew, even without being a mother, that this could be a hard season.
But now that I am here, it isn’t as bad as I thought.
I am not grappling with the things I thought I would be….in fact, I kinda wish I was because what is the most difficult thing at the moment, is accepting that he will never again be a sweet, innocent, enthusiastic child. Oh sure, he is still sweet in a way and enthusiastic at times, but that exuberance for life? That never-ending love for me? That willingness to excitedly try any and all things? Those things are long gone, never to return.
I took my youngest to a playground near my house the other day and was literally haunted by ghosts of my young son. As I stood near the play structure, I could vividly see a toddler boy giggling down the “so fast” slide. And I as I turned slightly, and looked across the field, I could see my son at three, running for his life, with tears streaming down his face, so no one would take his flags, at his first flag football game. Turning a little more, I spy the picnic table that a kindergarten boy sat at during a birthday party singing happy birthday at the top of his lungs. And just another slight turn gives me a glimpse of the tree where a second grade him sat, at the end of year picnic, exuberantly sucking down one of those awful ice popsicles in the plastic tubes.
None of that seems like more than a few days ago. I can see it and feel it and hear it and taste it so vivaciously. And it breaks me.
And as I turn back towards the playground, wiping the tears from my eyes, I am met with my three-year-old daughter, frantically rocking on the little yellow pony, and squealing with delight. The same pony that both my son and my middle daughter also loved just as much. Rocking there completely unchanged. And for a moment the past and the present and the future all joined forces and I could see all three at the same time in the same way.
I realized that every age is magical. And every age is precious. And every age has its challenges, but no age stops. Time doesn’t freeze. And we can’t reverse to relive or redo. So, mamas, soak it all up. The tears on the flag football field. The cake on the face at the birthday party. The skinned knees on the playground. The surly looks while taking selfies.
Because you blink…..and all that is left is a ghost of a memory and a longing in your heart.