When our eldest son was born, he was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. He was born ten weeks early, and at nineteen inches long and just over three pounds, there were dolls at our house that were bigger and heavier than he was.
It was two weeks before we were allowed to hold him. The nurse tenderly lifted him from the open warmer that was his first bed, careful not to tangle the forest of tubes and wires hanging from his tiny body, and laid him on the bare skin of my chest. His fingers splayed open against my skin, and I ran my finger gratefully over his delicate hand, almost afraid to touch him. Finally allowed to feel the weight of him, I swore to keep him safe and close and never let him go.
But tiny babies don’t last. They grow up in the blink of an eye, and before I realized it had happened, he was a man.
This week he made the decision not to stay at home for his first year of college, as we had been planning. He’s moving four hours away to go to school, and is planning to move by the end of the month. Suddenly and unexpectedly, eighteen years of raising him is in its last few weeks.
He was such a hard baby. Six weeks in the NICU left him uncomfortable with being touched. He screamed and pushed away from us whenever we snuggled him close. He hated the world, screaming in anger and frustration at everyone. We joked that we could tell him ‘no’ or amputate his leg with a butter knife and we would get the same response. Being his mom was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
His boyhood room was bare and simple, not because we didn’t try to decorate it, but because his temper tantrums sent him on a path of destruction that ripped pictures from the wall and flipped over his bed and nigh stand as he raged against the world. We would wrap him in our arms and try to calm the storms that raged inside of him, and most of the time we couldn’t.
We spent many hours in exhausted tears, unsure of how to help the son we loved but often struggled to like.
Puberty hit him like an answer to prayer, and the angry boy gave way to a quiet and funny young man. The son we had despaired over became a person we genuinely liked. He let us into the world of his imagination, and we discovered who he really was inside. He told us about the frustrations of his early years, the inner struggles he’d raged against, and how he’d finally begun to find peace within himself.
He is funny and witty. Shy and finding his way.
He’s the kid who belts out Disney songs with all of his might, and is my front seat dance partner when we’re driving in the car. He snorts when he laughs, and that makes him laugh even harder.
We have learned to play and find joy in each other’s company, and he often actually chooses to hang out with his uncool Mom. I like him. So very much. At last.
And he’s leaving.
I know that this is probably what’s best for him, and that we never intended for our children to live with us forever. I just didn’t know that the future was going to hit us so soon. I can’t imagine what our house will feel like without his crowing laughter wafting down from upstairs, or how dinnertime will be without him in his usual place at our table.
We have just two weeks before our house changes from where he lives into a place that he comes to visit. We can’t keep hold of our children forever; I just didn’t expect that the time to let him go was going to come so soon.
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