As parents, we always know that our kids will grow up. Which is to say that our brains understand that these small creatures we created are animals and as such they will ingest food which will create additional body tissues causing them to grow taller and heavier, progressing from crawling to walking to running to… well, whatever comes after running. We know they will grow stronger, smarter and more independent.
Our hearts on the other hand, don’t have this same understanding. In our hearts, these tiny little creatures are still cute little babies who need us for everything. Our hearts will always ‘know’ that these creatures, regardless of age, need us for everything. They are so small we can carry them in our hands, they have that “new-baby” smell and they need us to comfort them when they are scared or lonely. They fall asleep on our chests, their wispy hair tickling our chins and their soft pink toes not quite reaching our waists. They look up from our arms with bright eyes, and their little fingers grab our pinkies with a strength that we exclaim over. Of course, from time to time, our hearts get a shocked awakening to what our brains knew all along. And it aches when it happens.
Our eldest celebrated his tenth birthday with a group of his friends yesterday. A video-game playing, YouTube watching afternoon lead into a quick bite to eat at a burger joint prior to heading off to the movies. As my son, my tiny little baby, sat with his friends at a table without me, all of them talking and telling stories, joking with each other and having a great time, it really hit home that my baby isn’t a baby any more. He doesn’t need me like he used to. I could have left the room and they likely would not even have noticed.
We’ve seen these signs of independence coming. He’s been riding off with his friends for a couple years now on trips around the neighborhood, and this summer has marked his first forays into going with a friend down to the corner pizza shop for a slice with no adult supervision. I’m proud of his growing independence, and the signs of maturity I am seeing in him. When I look at him now, I see less of a little boy and more of a young man.
And yet, there’s a small part of me that is sad to see it happening. I know that soon enough, he’ll be driving, then college (or whatever he chooses) and then I’ll be wondering why he doesn’t call more, and will he be coming home for Christmas this year. I know that he will grow up, move out, maybe have a family of his own. I know that it’s a perfectly natural process – that everyone does it. I know that, but my heart doesn’t.