Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Whether or Not to Blink

Just recently I was holding a little redhead in one arm and the sweetest toddler in the other.

I remember thinking to myself "please God, life is just so damn sweet, please don't let anything happen." How could life get any better than this? And you know how it is when you have a toddler and a newborn - everyone who's got more than one little one at home has advice for you. I'd been inundated with it. But the one thing almost everyone said was this:

Enjoy every second of it - it goes so fast! They grow up so fast! Don't blink or you'll miss it! 

Over the years, it's always been some rendition of: You are really going to regret it when they grow up - hold on TIGHT. Don't Blink. Same thing when my daughter was born some years later.

But here's the thing. Grow up they did. And guess what? I look back on those years when they were little bitty - I mean I can see Connor when he was an infant, when he was three years old swinging' a baseball bat and chewing gum like his idol Mark McGwire, running the soccer field at eight, heading to high school at fourteen... all these great memories, right? And then I turn my head and look UP at him standing in front of me at 17 and I am just every bit as in love with him - maybe more so - as I ever was. I love our conversations, I love our relationship, I love the person he is and the man he is becoming. 

I watched Jack, 14, walk into CBC this morning for his first day of freshman orientation and I got teary eyed. How could I not? I know what is coming. These are the years. I'm telling you - for those of you who haven't been through it yet... THESE ARE THE YEARS. Middle school sucks (for those of you who haven't been through THIS yet... it's the sad truth). But, if you get through that hot mess, you are going to be blessed to find that these next four...  These next four years are going to show you what happens when your little boy becomes a young man. It's rough, for sure. The push and pull is no joy ride. And especially for the red-headed variety. Those stubborn, rule-breakin', fun-lovin', eye-twinklin-, girl-lovin' boys who just wanna run and play - homework and chores be damned. 

But when this boy of mine walked into those doors, those same wide double doors his older brother walked through three years ago for the first time - and as different as two people can be, they both walked through the same way - quietly, reserved, a little nervous, a little hesitant - and both - because I remember every second of watching Connor - I really do because I was trying to capture a picture of him with my iPhone without him noticing - both of them stopped to hold the door for other kids. And my heart swelled. It did. Oh, I know my sons are not the only ones to hold a door. I know they aren't the only ones to say please and thank you. But I find myself filled with so much pride. 

And I know that Jack doesn't need CBC to teach him this. He's got this down. Ask around - Jack is the kids who'll do your dishes if you feed him dinner. He'll carry in the groceries or take out your trash. Now at home... that's another story. But what he will find is himself. He walked in today quietly, a little apprehensive, not sure what to expect - and none to pleased to start school, to have to learn at all, much less with a building filled with guys. And he'll walk out four years from now - four very short years from now - with a confidence that comes from deep inside. With a respect (if not a love) for learning - and for the education he's received. For the moral code he's been given, for the sense of community he's been surrounded by, and for the faith and character he's built along the way. 

But I Digress. When Connor was in the third grade at St. Joe's, Jack started Kindergarten there and I was excited to have them both at the same school. Every morning, I'd have to pull away from Jack, his face red, eyes wet, and run down the hall. He did not want mama to leave. This morning I smiled and said "I hope you have a great day." He nodded as he got out of the car. "I hope you have a great day, too, mom." No tears there. Well, not his anyway.

When I got home, Connor was waiting for me. He needed help choosing which tie to wear for senior pictures. 

Maybe it's a bit easier for me knowing I've got a third grader at home who still needs me in the classic little girl sense. It's interesting, this juxtaposition of trying to get her to be a bit more independent (just last night we were having yet another conversation about her sleeping in her own bed), and these boys who are turning into men before my eyes. I'm enjoying the stages, and reminding myself, especially in the most difficult moments, that they won't last. These too shall pass, right? 

But I Digress (again). It's going to be an emotional year for this mama. One starting his high school experience. One finishing it up. One just leaning into the learning, the figuring it all out, the testing of curfews and rules... and one standing tall from all the experiences, smiling at the knowledge that his brother has yet to gain ("this is not a democracy and Mom rules."), excited to choose a university, dig into his last few Honors classes, plan his senior trip (hopefully) to Europe, and then start the learning all over again in college. 

So I don't mind blinking. I love watching them be the boys they are. The young men, the men they are growing into, their sense of humor, their intelligence, what drives them, what makes them laugh, tick, cry, smile, smirk, think ... all of it. Hell, I'm still enjoying watching myself grow, and I'm a hell of a lot more in love with them than I am with myself.

Oh, but lest I forget... Just recently I was holding a little redhead in one arm and the sweetest toddler in the other.