I was having a conversation with a friend who recalled the moment he realized his youngest daughter was no longer his baby and what an emotional blow it was. I could relate…
I remember I was sitting on the front porch as my youngest son, a mid-teenager then, was walking up the block from school. I noticed his walk had changed. It used to be something of a bop, this bouncy gait as he used to just short of walk on his toes. This young person coming towards me now had what could only be called a swagger. This was not the walk of the carefree. This was a strong, measured stride with purpose.
“Man! He walks hard!” My eldest son who was on the porch with me apparently noticed this change in his brother as well. Though they are only eighteen months apart physically, there was a subtle, unspoken my baby brother is growing up touch of pride to the statement. All I could think was…
What broke my baby?
How did I fail to protect him? Where the fuck was I, who saw him every single day, while whatever this was was going on that it hurt him, broke him and healed without my noticing? What the hell had happened in his young life that ripped his spirit, his innocence to the point it had changed his very walk? What else have I missed? Can I find out?
When he saw his brother and I sitting on the front porch, he broke into this beatific smile (both sons really do have great smiles), and greeted us. More perceptive to my moods, than I was to his, he looks at me a questioningly for a moment.
“I’m fine baby boy, you okay?”
“I’m GREAT! I’m having a great day!”
He then proceeds to regale us on just how great his day was. Naturally, with two teenaged boys, the conversation eventually shifts to video games and smack talk reigns.
I listen to and watch the both of them, but mostly my youngest. Tall, though still a couple of years from his eventual 6’3″ height, his once high-pitched voice now very much a tenor. My silly little boy was very much still in there, but this man-child, now bounding up the stairs with his big brother, was anything thing but my baby any more.