Last night I participated in a wonderful group where we got to share stories based on the subject “The Wild Unknown.” When I was invited to speak I had recently spoken with my youngest son. At some point in the conversation between the now very adult and I, I was reminded of when I realized he was not my baby anymore and what an oddly emotional blow it was.
I remember I was sitting on the front porch as my youngest son, then in his mid-teens, 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. This was a man’s stride.
“Man! He walks hard!” My eldest son who was on the porch with me apparently noticed this change in his little brother 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 his assessment. Yet, all I could think was…
What broke my baby?
Both of my sons are very much like me. It had been their chagrin most of their young lives that I was sometimes one-up on them, able to predict some of what could get them in trouble and put a stop to it. It was generally my chagrin when they did something I missed and though I knew exactly why it happened, because it was something I did or would have done as a kid, I had to disciple them regardless. Sometimes I let them make mistakes, because it really is the only way to learn some hard lessons. But this did not fall into one of those categories.
My eldest took it hard when my mother died. Very hard. I knew the loss of the woman that tried her best to spoil him rotten, had broke him and changed him. I saw it happen and did my best to guide him through it and he was much better by this point, but I was cognizant of that change. I felt I had dropped the ball with my youngest as I watched him approach.
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 changed him 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? Could I find out? Should I find out?
I found myself once again into the wild unknowns of parenthood. Yes, there are guides and plenty of people who can give advice, whether you asked for it or not. There are some givens we all go through as children and as adults raising them. In the end, each child is unique and wild unknown and how one raises that child will be unique to that child.
I realized, they both were of the ages where the shift in dynamics of how we relate to each other changes. They will always be my children, and though they were not yet men, they were not in fact children. It felt like just last year I was teaching them to tie their shoes and only last month we had the condom talk, not a few years ago. I was losing them into the men they were going to be, another wild unknown…
When he saw his brother and I sitting on the front porch, he broke into this beatific smile (both of my sons really do have great smiles), and greeted us. More perceptive to my moods, than I had been to his, he looks at me at questioningly for a moment.
“You okay, Mommie?”
“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 teenage boys, the conversation eventually segues to video games and smack talk reigns.
I listen to and watch the both of them, but mostly my youngest for a long moment. 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 and potentially everything, but he was not my baby anymore.
It’s Day 28 of the 2020 Slice of Life Writing Challenge – come see how others are slicing it up this Saturday.