At lunch, before we ate, he made a speech,”thanks for today. I know coming to a swim meet wasn’t how you wanted to spend your day, but I am happy I got to spend the day with my girls.”
I still see him as the little fella with the hat turned backwards with a mischievous glint in his gray eyes and a half smile full of impish humor. To me, he’s the same little guy that used to climb in my lap or snuggle beside me in bed.
Today-driving from Atlanta he leaned over and laid his head on my shoulder and he was suddenly 6 again.
But he’s 17. He works, gets himself up for 5:30a swim practice and holds down a full advanced class school schedule. He no longer wants matchbox cars-instead he wants to ‘toughen’ up the truck he’s allowed to drive. We don’t talk Legos anymore. Now it’s talk of rims and wheels and chrome what-cha-ma-call-it’s. He carries more burdens now-looking after his sisters and me. Responibilites of debt and the weight of want. He’s has his first love and had his heart broken. He’s heard tough feedback and been let down a time or two. He’s understanding that the life you want doesn’t come easy or fairly. He’s 17.
But I still see my little fella–so sweet and funny. So full of swagger and oomph. He will always be that to me.
“I can get into rated r movies without an adult now,” he proclaimed riding down the road. This just moments after he’d lais his bushy head in my shoulder. I almost admonished him and said ‘not without my permission’ but I didn’t. Because he really doesn’t need my permission for that now.
Today in the mail there were flyers from colleges. This time next year we will be talking financial aid and school visits. This time next year he will be getting ready to leave this nest I’ve created for him. Part of me is proud but a bigger part of me is heartbroken. I just can’t imagine not getting a hug from my fella every night. I can’t fathom not seeing him, his hat still backwards, smiling at me or thank ing me for coming to his swim meets.
He’s 17. He’s making a life of his own. He’s facing difficulties and having to make decisions on how to get through them. All on his own.
I am not finished teaching this little fella of mine, but my role is different now. I can offer advice, make roles and set boundaries-and I do-but more and more he’s having to face things on his own.
I know this is how it’s supposed to be. My job is to teach him and to prepare him to go off on his own. I didn’t know it would be so hard. I didn’t realize that every step he took on his own would be away from me.
My fella is so full of life on the outside but inside he’s a little sad and a little scared. He’s not a big fella. He talks too much and has to fight hard to focus. He has big dreams but he’s having to achieve them the hard way-working twice as hard as some of his friends-to even get close to what he wants. And what he wants often eludes him. While I know this will build his character I also feel bad-wishing his lot in life were a little easier-that things were a little more attainable or that just once he felt like he could breathe and let the world come to him. But it’s not that way for my little guy.
He loves us. He adores his baby sister and she him. He’s proud of his 3 year-3 day younger sister. He’s patient with me. He does his best to be the little man of the house. He calls us ‘his girls’ and smiles that smile of his when I tell him how much I love him.
17. It’s not yet a man but it’s so far from a boy. He’s caught in the in-between. It’s one of those birthdays you tolerate to get to the next milestone-18 when the world considers you as adult or 21 when its all legal and binding. For him-it’s a waiting year. For me it’s so much more—17.
He’s growing out his hair-and I let him-even though it’s wooly and wild and unkept. I know he’s trying to figure out who he is and who he will become. I see glimpses of a man I will be very proud of. I also still see tiny glimpses of that little fella who stole my heart 17 years ago today. We named him a big name that day -Colton Henry and over the years I’ve watched him grow into the name.
He’s 17 years old today but it feels like just a moment has passed.