Standing amid piles of school work, probably packing lunches while hoping the dryer was doing its job eliminating leftover wrinkles from that day’s school clothes, I suddenly realized that my sons were finishing elementary school and middle school that week.
It’s a fact I was aware of, of course, in an abstract way, but the full gravity of their growth didn’t strike me until that moment and I found myself getting emotional.
“What’s wrong, mom?” my 10-year-old asked. I pulled him in for a hug and realized he was almost as tall as me — his 13-year-old brother had surpassed me earlier in the year.
“You’re just so tall,” I said, because it was easier than explaining how quickly time passes. “Both of my boys are taller than me.”
He laughed. “We’re not tall, you’re small. There are large birds taller than you.”
I laughed with him but his statement was more poignant than he knew. Other than the bird part.
It made me realize there’s a slow transition that happens in parenthood, where in a sense our children grow and we shrink.
Not in the physical sense, of course, I’m the same 5 feet, 3 inches as I’ve been since eighth grade. But all of my efforts as a parent are focused on the hope that they surpass me in every way — in health, wealth, love, safety and potential — and witnessing a benchmark of that progress in the form of their physical growth made me realize that the balance is shifting and I’m not just preparing for the moment when they each blossom into a bigger and better person than I am, I’m witnessing it. It’s here now.
We’re past pressing concerns of playgroups and organic snack foods, and onto academic opportunities and social scenarios that will truly shape who they are as adult individuals.
My own aspirations have either leveled out or mostly been achieved, much like my physical growth, and I’ve already laid the foundation for their futures. I still have work to do as a parent and person, of course, but there’s also a sense of passing the baton — onto them; these impossibly tall boys on the cusp of becoming men, who have their own opinions and make their own decisions.
And I as I watch them rise, I am both filled with pride and a sense of fulfilled purpose but I also mourn this receding view of their childhoods; I feel smaller than I’ve been in the past.
I drove my 13-year-old to Gainesville recently to see a short film he appeared in — 5 hours through the rain and delays from several roadside wrecks — and after I carefully scouted out an area that would seat all three of us at the crowded venue, a girl walked in and he left to go sit with her. I barely saw him for the rest of the evening.
And for a moment, I found myself feeling disappointed. This was supposed to be about us. Then I remembered that this is the job. That this is him climbing the mountain of life, while I wait nearby with necessary supplies, like a loyal Sherpa.
It’s not my climb anymore, although I’m an integral part of the journey.
I am not smaller, just a little further away as they ascend through the levels of life — and in a way, that’s the ultimate sign of my own personal growth.
But I’ll still cry like a baby about it every time I notice. Growing up is hard, and so is growing smaller.
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Ashley McCann editorializes the messes and mayhem of motherhood as a columnist and blogger. Named to Ignite Social Media's "100 Women Bloggers You Should Read," her candid humor and frank advice puts a fresh spin on modern family life.