Yesterday I was making muffins on a Saturday morning while my little fellow sat, fascinated in front of the oven asking when the PUFFINS were going to be ready. It broke my heart the first time he said, “Mom, you know they aren’t called Puffins, right? They are MUFFINS.” Of course I knew but it made me sad when he knew. It wasn’t yesterday, it was 12-almost-13 years ago.
It was 7 years ago I dressed him in his first tee ball uniform. The shirt-the smallest they made-tucked to this knees and the sleeves to his elbows. His hat? Caddy-whompus and sideways. “It’s cool this way Mama,” he would say and I let him wear it that way because it was so heart-breakingly adorable.
Then there was his first day of kindergarten. His little tiny bookbag was bigger then he was. I parked the car and held his little hand in mine. We got to the sidewalk and he let go of my hand. “I got this,” he said and he took a step away. My heart broke. He turned and gave a little wave. A wave intended to encourage me to be brave I think. “You may have this but I don’t!” I sniffed. That started the walk away. From that day on he seems to be walking AWAY leaving me proud and sad. Every little achievement for him is bittersweet.
There was his first formal dance in 5th grade. The night was full of tangos and waltzes and shows of the manners and lessons he earned thru the year. The last dance, the last dance he saved for me. (It was designed that way by the instructors but…) While little boys in blue blazers, starched khaki’s and shiny shoes fidgeted and bounced on the floor of the UGA Coliesum, my fellow ran up the stairs, smiling. He held out his hand and asked me to dance. Even now I tear up. He held my hand and let me down to the dance floor. “Don’t worry, Mama. We got this,” he said as he walked me thru the little box steps of the dance he had practiced just for me.
The first time he qualified for a spot in the state swim meet….he was seeded 4th in regionals. The top 3 were to move on. I told him his time. I told him I was proud no matter what. I told him I loved him. I watched as he dug deep and in character that only an individual sport can unleash he did more then anyone thought he could do and touched the wall in 3rd place. Sitting 12 or so bleachers up I cried. From the edge of the pool he caught my eye and held it. He held my eyes up the bleacher stairs. He held my eye as he hugged grandparents who lined the bench beside me. Then it was my turn. My 11 year old big boy launched his excited, quivering little body into my arms and hugged me tight. “I did it Mama!” he whispered. “I got this.”
And now he’s 12. 13 in less then 10 days. I see glimpses of teen–not always good–and I know that entering into his teens is just another lap in his journey away from me. I try and savor the moments. I try to celebrate his triumphs. I try. Tonight was just one more bittersweet moment. Home from the BIG BASH-a middle school party after a football game–he entered the house beaming. Beaming. And I knew. Even before he said, “best night of my life” I knew. The first kiss. It was done. His rite of passage was complete.
Being me-I asked. Being my sweet boy-he answered. Three ‘couple’ friends were sitting on the hill by the football field. Country music was playing. His friend, Mikach, told him to take control. He leaned over, grabbed his current girlfriend, Maddy, just along her jaw line and leaned in and kissed her. Unfortunately his didn’t notice that she had her snow cone spoon in her mouth. So apologized. She blatantly stated the obvious “I had a spoon in my mouth.” The next one was better but it didn’t last the required 5 seconds so it didn’t count. Third time. Third time he was the charmer and the magically first kiss occurred. The 4th-well that was her saying goodbye. I asked if it was what he had expected. “Ah mom…it was so much better.” It was an innocent kiss just as all first kisses should be.
And so he beams and I sniff a little on the couch. He obliges me and grabs his baby book so I can note the triumph. He gives me that slow patient smile that I see more and more often as he grows up and gives me the details…one more time.
And so he goes, every single step takes him away from me. Every once in awhile he looks back and gives me a little wave of love. Is it to make sure I feel better or to make sure I am there? I like to think the latter.