Leaning into the Middle Years

parenting

I feel the years slipping by. 

Like warm, silky sand through my fingers.  

There is nothing I can do to slow it down. The passage of time is one of life’s irrefutable truths.  Such are the musings of a mom planted firmly in the middle years.  

My baby boys and I are in the thick of it.  One is 12, the other turns 15 this week.  

I don’t know how it happened but Luke is a 6th grader, wrapping up his final year of elementary school and Kenny is a freshman in high school.

They’re trying to figure it all out, this game called life. Who they are, where they fit, and what they want to be when they grow up. I can almost see the wheels turning. 

It’s a time of rapid change. I mean lightning speed. Some days I hardly recognize the young men sitting at the breakfast table and walking out the front door each morning. 

Into the big world.

And out of mine. 

I surreptitiously watch them walk to the bus stop from my front window. If one of their friends happened to see me mothering from afar, ahhhh the humiliation that would ensue. So, I do my gazing in the shadows, pulling the curtain back just slightly. 

Afraid to blink.

I don’t want to miss a thing.  

 

More than ever before I find myself longing for the early days of motherhood. To have my pockets full of dandelion gifts again. Another chance to feel pudgy arms wrapped around my neck. One more sticky hand reaching up to grab mine. I miss the slobbery kisses planted on my cheeks unabashedly. I would wipe those little wet love notes away without thinking twice.

You see, I didn’t have the perspective of a middle years mom yet. 

I didn’t possess her wisdom.

The adorable, shy side-smile of my big one and the sparkly-eyed, impish grin of my little one are seared into my memory. Every once in a while, I catch the same expressions on their decade-older faces and my heart does a flip-flop. The reality that they’re getting older punches me in the gut. 

It takes my breath away.

These rememberings feel melancholy at first. But if I probe deeper, unconditional love and gratitude are more like it. A mother’s love for the little boys they were and the independent humans they are becoming. And gratitude that I have a front-row seat for the transformation. 

Although I really, really tried to be present back then, I struggled. I was too worried about keeping my little chickens alive, properly nourished in all the ways. The list of “shoulds” bogged me down. I was chugging a stress and exhaustion cocktail and fuzzy-brained as a result. I had my blinders on.

The early days dragged on and on. I even remember pleading with time to speed up. Bedtime and finally, a break couldn’t come fast enough. I never imagined reminiscing a decade later with such reverence and regret…  

But here we are.   

 

This knowing is the key though. A powerful reminder about the precious present.  TODAY will be looked back upon wistfully.  

So lean in.  

When my middle years boys are fully grown, I’ll be longing for a dose of their silly sarcasm. And the chance to sit on the edge of their bed, talk about the day, and kiss them goodnight. I’ll miss the sweet innocence that still lingers. The sound of their deepening voices. The growing muscles peeking out from their sleeves when they carry groceries in from my car. The morning hugs while they’re still warm from sleep. All of it. 

I sit alone at my kitchen counter writing this essay. The house is dim, quiet, and peaceful. When I had two loud and wild boys running circles around me I dreamed of moments like this. The quiet feels heavier than I thought it would though. 

Less like freedom.

More like loneliness.   

One boy is in the basement lifting weights and watching YouTube videos. The other is up in his bedroom with the door closed. He’s playing a video game and FaceTiming with his friends. I have to listen closely for signs of life. The clink of a metal bar settling back onto its rack. A shout, “Come on bro!” followed by laughter.  

They’re living their best lives. 

And so am I. 

I’ve been gifted with two incredible souls to love and guide. So I will treasure each precious crystal of sand while it’s still in my palm. I can’t stop the boys from inching closer toward adulthood but I can revel in the tiny moments along the way. That is the assignment.

 

To my middle years boys, thank you. 

Thank you for the hugs and kisses you still tolerate, the gratitude you express, and for not pushing back too hard yet. I know it’s coming and I’m bracing myself.  

Thank you for not finding every single thing I do too embarrassing. Just most of it. I’m pretty sure my 100% cringe status is coming too, although I swear I’m cool and you’re seriously off base with your assessment of my ways. 

Thank you for listening to me and trusting me. I know you will test the waters and make mistakes. You will chart your own path and that’s how you will learn. I just hope and pray you never stray too far. That you’ll stay connected to your roots while testing your wings.  

Please don’t be weirded out if you catch me staring. 

I’m just trying to soak it all in. 

To soak all of YOU in. 

You, and your spectacular middle years self.

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