Something about yesterday opened the fragile trapdoor behind which I was unknowingly storing my true feelings about my oldest child starting high school in a month. His impending matriculation didn’t take me by surprise, of course. I was cheerfully applauding at his 8th grade step-up ceremony in June, purchased his summer reading book a few weeks ago, and currently read weekly emails from the high school principal. But something about yesterday revealed the tender pit in my stomach like early labor, or fledgling grief. Maybe both.
My first son was born in February 2008, and since August of 2009—when I was seven months pregnant with twins—I’ve been a stay at home, then work from home, then stay at home mom again. I’ve spent exponentially more hours face to face and hands on with him than was ever presented to my generation as an option for mothers, let alone acceptable. I truly feel every minute of his fourteen years, and yet… How?
The pre-grief, the low panic, the threatening rumble of a clock itching to quicken have been sitting in my chest since yesterday, unbidden. Maybe it was that I hadn’t seen him but for a moment since last Friday, as he enjoyed an extended stay away from his siblings at his dad’s. Maybe it’s the noticeably earlier sunsets and peeper calls after dark that signal straight through to my own childhood that the new school year is around the corner. Mostly, however, I think it’s because I’ve spent 14.5 years guiding and raising him and quite like the person he is and is becoming, and I know now that our time in this season is both golden and slippery. He still jokes with me and loves to sit with me on the couch. He unabashedly tells me he loves me in front of his friends and hugs me still in their presence. He’s unashamed of his love. He always has been.
While I trust that the foundation upon which we’ve built our lives will carry us through to new and exciting iterations of our relationship as he sheds the scales of youth and emerges into adulthood, I simply feel tender about it all. I don’t consciously miss the days of toddlerhood when I essentially had triplets, but I pang for more of today. More of these days where we can talk about girls through blushing cheeks, debate about news stories, biblical commands, and chores, and still have tickle fights.
There’s not much more to say now, but I know there will be. And, I’ll write about it. For those who’ve had high schoolers, and those who will, but mostly for those of us who do. Where we can show up with all our fears, excitement, and tenderness and be held by one another as we shuffle toward the unknown.