There's so very, very little left of him that is, well, little. No soft, curling locks or deliciously aromatic neck to sniff. In fact, I rarely approach my almost 13-year-old with my nose unless it's to determine if he needs a shower.
Nobody tells you about having to smell pre-teens when you get pregnant. Rather, they do, but all new parents laughingly ignore the warnings of doom because we** all say:
"Look At This! I have a BA.BY. I will never have to be where you are! That is impossible! Not only because my baby is my baby, but also because the possibility of my baby becoming a teenager would mean that I would have to AGE. And that? Ridiculous! I mean, come on! I like Pearl Jam and go to Lollapalooza and am FAR TOO YOUNG to ever have a teenager!! "
This lovely reality of parenthood is hidden in a dark dresser drawer, shoved underneath other less-desirable aspects like the first time your child bites somebody else and the first time you realize that you will NOT be "better" at this parenting gig than your parents or your neighbor or that woman down the street who never wears anything but sweatpants.***
My eldest is a near-man. I'm definitely not his "best fwend in da world" anymore. Not to say that we don't get along, because we do. Especially when we're not arguing. We get along really well when we're not arguing. Or when I'm not asking him to take out the trash, do schoolwork, get dressed... In fact, if I were to just stay out of his way, we'd probably never have any problems, EVER.
Back when I was able to hold him, whenever I felt like it, for longer than 2.3 seconds. Back when he liked me without reservations; without qualifications. Back when I wore overalls and had a perm.
I have been poring over the old journals I have from my pregnancy of Justin. I have been reading the letters I've written to the tiny little soul who changed our lives, nearly 13 years ago. Naturally, many wistful tears have been spilled and memories rediscovered of who I was back then and what our family was like. Nearly everything has changed. Our address, our careers, our lifestyle, our family size. The only constant is our love. The love that I wrote to that tow-headed baby boy still exists for my baritone teenager. It's not the same, obviously. A mother's love, like everything beautiful in the world, must evolve to continue to survive.
He doesn't need me to rock him to sleep or prepare his food and holding his hand to cross the street is something I haven't had to do in eons. The needs for my 13 year old are more... abstract. He needs me available, but not intruding. He needs me to provide him with more space than most mothers are ever comfortable giving over. He needs me to tell him I love him, every day, even when we're arguing (especially when we're arguing).
I'm thinking he also needs to not have his mom gush about him for too long on the internet. That said, I will end my weepy, week-long attempt at capturing how much I love him. I will quietly forward the link to him on his Facebook account and not be sad when he doesn't come to talk to me about it, wrapping his arms around me and proclaiming just how much he still loves me. I know he loves me. Even when I'm the lamest mom in the world, he still loves me.
Happy Birthday, Justin. You are a cool, cool kid and I'm so, so proud of you.
*Answer: about 6 drafts. SIX.
**By "We" I mean "Me" and probably "You" but it's quite possible that you are more intelligent than I am. Perhaps when you were 23 with a newborn, you realized that Time Marches On, but it kinda sorta escaped me, back then...
***See also: potty-training, IEP meetings, Boy Scout camp outs and anytime the words "...promise you won't get mad...." are uttered.
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