Thursday, August 1, 2013

He's not mine, I just get to keep him for a while

Sitting in a stuffy middle school cafeteria on a hot summer afternoon, he crawls up into my lap. He wraps his lanky arms around my neck and whispers in my ear.

Love you more, mama.

He pulls back and grins, and any frustration I had inside melts away.

He fidgets and flits, he can't sit still. He turns to face forward, feigns interest in the music being performed on stage.

I quietly whisper shhhh in his ear.

He grabs my hand and interlaces his fingers with mine, sizing up the difference between his tiny hand and mine, rests his head on my chest.

His head smells like him, a faint scent of shampoo mixed in with the sweat of a little boy who was just running around in circles. I close my eyes and drink it in because I know this time is borrowed, this time that I have left with him like this.

I know because before him, the others sat here with their arms wrapped around me as I inhaled the smell of fleeting youth.

I know because on the stage in front of us was the first to sit here on this lap. Today he's taller than I am. It seems like it can't have been that long ago that it was his turn. Where did the time go?

He was just here.

He was just here.

He was just here lacing his fingers with mine, and now he's over there, directly in the middle of adolescence, trying to figure out his own place in this world. He's this person now, unique and different, with his own set of like and dislikes, his own set of things he is passionate about.

He's someone entirely away and apart from me now and I hope every day that I've given him the tools to navigate this new world of his. I hope he can love himself, he can push himself, he can trust himself, he can laugh at himself. I think he can. I hope he knows that I'll be that soft place to land for however long he needs it.

The time we are given with them is never enough. The days last forever, but the years fly by. You blink and suddenly that little sweaty boy on your lap is on a stage somewhere and you wonder how it all happened this way.

When this little one is up on that stage someday, doing whatever he loves when he's at this place, my lap will be empty. I'll be in the crowd with no one else to keep an eye on, with no one else to whisper shhh to. I'll be watching, fighting back the tears of pride that always come, cherishing that bittersweet moment, wishing for time to slow just a bit.

There won't be anyone else climbing up in my lap anymore, wrapping their arms around my neck, tracing the veins on the back on my hand with their tiny fingers.

I know that the space between now and then is shorter than it seems. I know that it will come too soon.

Our children aren't ours, not really anyway. They are their own beings that just happen to be placed in our care for a time. I say quite often that I'm not in the business of collecting children, but that I'm here to raise them and then set them free.

What no one warns new mothers about is that every day a child grows, they grow a little further away from you. They grow a little more independent. They grow a little more self sufficient. They need us a little bit less every day.

Which is the point of motherhood. If we've done our jobs, they will need us less.

As much as bearing witness to this process of growth is what we strive for, it doesn't come without a price. For every step they take away from us, there's the one we choose to refrain from taking to follow them. For every piece of independence they learn, we are required to let them go just a little bit more.

Motherhood, just about every single piece of it, is bittersweet.

And so I sat with my boy on my lap and I burned that moment into my memory banks. I tucked it away. You have to drink in those times when they come. You have to inhale all the sweaty squirmy preschool heads while you can because one day, not far from now, they'll be grown and over there.

This little boy, he's not mine. I just get to keep him for a while, and keep him I will.


  1. "Which is the point of motherhood. If we've done our jobs, they will need us less."

    Just the other day I said this. "If I do my job, he will leave someday. If I do it well, he will develop loving relationships, and someone will replace me." I pray every day that I'm doing this right.

    Love to you and yours. <3

  2. You are incredible. Thank you for finding a way to write the words that are in my heart, so very often. Especially THIS. It all just goes so fast.

  3. Thank you, for writing the words that are in my heart. For understanding. For "getting" this. Because yes, as incredible as it is to watch them grow up and become men, the process goes far to quickly and before you know it... they're all taller than you, half-grown already, figuring out who they are and you're sitting there wondering where the time has gone. Smiling through those happy tears.

  4. I am so feeling this pull of growing up right now. As my daughter makes friends and gets out in the world more she needs me less and less. I am trying to soak up all the cuddling I can before it is all gone!

  5. Dammitt. I went and read it before my boy got home, and now I'm a blubbering mess. He's been gone, visiting his bio-father and grandparents in NC and FL (far away from MI) for the last 5 weeks.
    He was supposed to be home this weekend, but drama and selfishness is preventing his homecoming until next week. I am not okay with it, but I am helpless. I have to accept the situation and move on, but it is proving to be so incredibly difficult because I just miss him so much. I haven't been able to inhale his scent for 5 weeks, and I believe I'm going through some kind of withdrawal. That's the one thing in the whole world that can calm and soothe me more than anything- the smell of my son's head; and just when I need it the most, he's not here.

    I realize that isn't the point of your post, but it made me think about how much more difficult things are going to get as he gets older and no longer lets me smell his head. He knows it helps me these days. He asked me once why I sniff his head, and I told him it makes me feel calm and safe. So now, whenever he sees me getting upset or stressed out, he'll come up to me and tell me to smell his head. <3
    One day he's not gonna let that happen anymore, and oh my goodness, do I savor it now while I can.

    Thank you for this post. Sorry I didn't read it sooner. xoxo

    1. I love that he tells you to smell his head. xoxo Hoping he gets home soon. <3

  6. I only get to do this motherhood thing once so I cherish every day that I get to keep her. At fourteen she wants so fiercely to be away from me but at the same time will crawl into my bed to cuddle "just because" . Do I stop to smell the scent of her head? You bet I do. Bie you captured what every mother has thought at one moment or another. Be confident. I love how you can express what we all have felt.

  7. I just watched my third little boy say 'I do' to another woman & essentially, stop needing me. I'm so proud of him & yet, so lost without him. They are the reason I exist & every day they do more to make me proud. Being a boy-mom is never easy, but always, always, always so worth it!

  8. This is pretty great! It truly goes by way too fast! Now I can't wait to get home and smell my boys head.

  9. From the time they took their first breath I knew, I was only a way station in their life. Now at 19, 18 and 13 my nest is open. I don't cry at graduations. I don't mourn them getting older like many of my friends do.

    With that first breath they had life. It is my job to prepare them to live it well.


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