Every child has a story. Most of the time, it’s the story of his birth. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s a story that is told by someone who loves him most. And, little by little, it’s a story that lays itself on a child’s heart, and whispers itself in his ear when he needs to hear about family, and love, and belonging.
Both of my children know their story, because their dad and I have told it to each of them many times. Sometimes they ask for it, but they hear it at other times because I want to say it out loud and see them smile knowingly.
My son’s story begins with a lunar eclipse and ends the next morning with his (then) blue eyes staring up at me, squinting and calm but asking “Are you my mama?” and my answer “Yes, that’s me.”
My boy’s story will be thirteen years old this month, and so I’m reliving this first scene where his life began. As a result, I’m getting sentimental and melancholy as opposed to feeling simply nostalgic like a normal person.
You see, I never pictured myself as a teenager’s mom. I was always comfortable in the role of harried, messy mom of toddlers and preschoolers. I must have spent hundreds of hours mixing up a million batches of playdough and picking the remnants out of the carpet at night. I knew all the songs. I had all the equipment. I finally learned how to work the seatbelts in the carseats. I read them all my favorite books from childhood, which became their favorite books too.
But I suspect that I might actually have a knack for being a teenager’s mom. For one thing, I am starting to look the part, with lines on places where I worry too much. For another, I have really taken to the sarcastic banter with The Boy, and don’t mind a bit of back talk as long as it’s successfully funny.
And here I am, ready or not, driving from school to home discussing politics with my nearly-adolescent son. He is full of opinions that seem to be forming faster than he can shock me with them. I don’t know where he gets all this information. I don’t know how he processes it into astonishingly inaccurate ideas.
He’s hilarious just like his grandfather (on my side, naturally), but unbelievably serious at the same time, and far too ready to take the weight of the world on his shoulders. He worries too much, and asks questions about the future, ones that keep me up at night, ones that show he beginning to understand what a responsibility this Life Thing is. He asked me the other day if his dad and I had a will, because we really should plan for the future.
In September, out of the blue, he decided to join the school musical, The Fiddler on the Roof, as a member of the stage crew. I assumed he and a buddy were joining together to try new and creative ways of slacking off. I asked him who else would be part of the stage crew, and he told me he didn’t know, that he just wanted to help out Mr. Dunger, the music teacher whose class he enjoys. The teacher asked him to be in the Bottle Dance and he said sure. He picked up his rehearsal schedules and didn’t miss a single one.
The other day I picked him up from a six hour rehearsal on a Saturday. He had missed a classmate’s birthday party because, as he said, he had this rehearsal and could not miss it. I took him to Starbucks for a treat and he sank into a comfy chair gratefully, long legs splayed out in front of him.
It was like he had just grown an entire foot in front of my very eyes (which I actually think has happened at some point this year). Finally I think I really understood that my boy is this separate person, living parts of his life that I don’t really know much about. I couldn’t stop staring at him, which apparently isn’t really a cool thing for a mom to do. Oh well, it’s not like I’ve done a lot of cool mom things in his lifetime anyway, so why start now.
He’s not a blue-eyed baby or a brash, curly-haired toddler. He’s not a sticky, noisy preschooler. He’s a teenager, one who has his own thoughts, his own opinions, his own nature. One who was now rubbing his cap over his eyes, waiting for a milkshake.
He’s not a baby anymore. But I’m still his mama. His story is still being written. And I’m so grateful for this extraordinary boy’s life.