Middle school is a time of change for both kids and parents alike. Having two sons who will be in sixth and seventh grade this school year, I have come to see just how much the dynamic between us has shifted recently.
The days of having two rambunctious little monkeys with an insatiable appetite for belly laughs and rolling in the dirt, catapulting across my furniture in a never-ending race, have passed us by in a hurry. What remains in the wake of frogs, snails, and puppy dog tails are two sullen and blase sloths who aren’t in a hurry to do anything except lounge around with the stench of their own putrid body odor and be annoyed by my hovering presence, forcing them to censor themselves temporarily.
While I am glad to be rid of the constant questioning and mindless chatter about anything that attaches to wheels or rockets, I am sad to see them so grown and large by comparison. I won’t miss the endless requests for sippy cup refills, butt wiping, or naptime roping and wrangling. I will, however, yearn to hold them in my arms, fit them on my lap, and snuggle up tightly. Saying goodbye to pushing them on the swings, to chastising them running up the slides, and to the countless bike rides around the block one more time has been bittersweet. A change I never put much thought into experiencing as a mother before now. I never foresaw myself welcoming this world full of video games, closed bedroom doors, and developing adult senses of humor with my baby boys, yet here we are now.
Just as they are going through constant body changes with the onset of puberty, our relationships are evolving with their greater sense of independence, too. Sometimes I feel like they are light years ahead of me, capable of so much more than I want to give them credit for. Yet every now and again, I’ll catch a glimpse of the little boys that once ruled this fortress… police station… dungeon… secret hideout… that they simply call home now.
Whether it is the scrunched-up look they get as they fight back angered tears because washing the dishes is more important than leveling up on Call of Duty, or the high-pitched voice when they squeak out a still familiar whine over bedtime, or even the way they still sleep on their backs with their hands resting on their chests as if in prayer, they are, for a fleeting moment in time, my familiar babies again. Not the strange creatures from a foreign dimension they have seemingly become overnight.
Looking back on my own adolescence, I remember pulling away from my parents in search of my identity. How I wanted to find my way without any help because I was invincible and knew everything about the world already. All at the same time, though, I remember feeling intimidated and awkward in my skin, as if I had woken up in a whole new body I didn’t recognize.
Some of the best memories I have carried with me throughout my lifetime happened during those years. I also experienced my first real tragedy in life, too, at the same tender age my oldest son is right now. Those experiences from my tweendom became the foundation which shaped me into the person I am today.
It takes my breath away to think my baby boys have now reached this same point in their lives; they are maturing into young men who have no desire for any sort of dependence on their mother any longer. The monkeys who once kept me on my toes with boundless amounts of energy have me second guessing everything I say and do in my futile attempts to keep them reeled in close. Part of me just cannot let go.
My newly discovered sloths are ready to claim their own territory and explore the surrounding world on their own terms. Whether I am ready to accept it as a fact or not, my babies are halfway to manhood now, and there is nothing I can do to stop them from reaching it.
Whereas I was once their sole caretaker, I am merely just their tour guide in life now. It has been quite the adjustment to make on both our parts.
This momma wants to cling tight to those little monkeys, now long gone, afraid to see my work completed and the finished product I created. I constantly wonder if I have done enough… if I am doing enough… if it will all be enough. Wanting to know if I had had just a smidgen more time with these boys when they were younger, would this transition be any easier, would I be more reassured in my preparations? Would they be better men for it one day than they will be as it stands now?
Alas, all I can do is sit back and enjoy the ride as it comes, hoping for the best. Forcing myself not to think of the worst. Reveling in the magic of life’s many changes.
Middle school has a way of changing everything, but I underestimated the power it has to flip life right upside down. Before now, I thought the changes of middle school would be limited to my kids going through puberty and adjusting to their hormonal mood swings. I know better now, as everything I have ever known about motherhood has gone out the window.
The kids aren’t going to be the only ones learning lessons this school year, and that is perfectly okay with me.