A letter to my son, during the Indian Summer of his childhood:

You've been slipping away for years, sometimes with jolting bumps in the road; more often in slow, easy passes - so smooth it doesn't register until it's over. When did we last read Goodnight Gorilla? How old were you when you stopped holding my hand? When did your hair stop feeling baby-fine and start taking on a shape - and smell - of it's own? How long has it been since you yelled for me to come and play wif you; asked me to dance; begged me to hop on a carousel because you were frightened to ride the horse by yourself? When did you lose your awe for a brilliant moon or the flutter of butterfly wings? I can't remember the last time you presented me with a proudly picked dandelion. I remember the first, but when did it end?

I can't think of these endings often. They suffocate me with an understanding that you are not mine to keep, not my sweet boy forever. They are always there, those reminders, always with a bitter promise of unknown replacements - eye rolls replace hugs; friends and parties replace family game nights; soda and chips replace sippy cups and Goldfish crackers; random YouTube videos and earbuds replace Jim Gill and The Laurie Berkner Band battling it out on the car stereo.

I miss kiddie music and weed bouquets and reading pictures books until my voice cracks and my eyes droop. I miss soft hands and high pitched giggles. I miss you.

I resigned myself to the burping alphabet and lack of conversations at dinner. I let go of the hope that you'd slip and call me "mommy" one more time. I put the kitchen dancing memories away, into the only-when-I-need-to-cry box. I pushed back the need to hear your tiny feet hit the floor one half a second before you squeal for me, giddy for a new day at 6 in the morning. I gave in to the growing-up part of motherhood.

You must have sensed the change. Maybe you felt the big tear in our bond to your childhood; the last vestiges of your kiddie freedom being snipped away. Did you realize what you were leaving behind? Do you wish for another chance at being small? Are you sad to lose that part of us, too?

Suddenly, you're back. You're hugging me every day and I'm the "best mom ever" again. You're brushing your teeth and washing your hair without a fight. You're thanking me for dinner and asking about my day. You want to talk to me again. You learn a song on your guitar because it makes you think of me. You ask for my opinion and we have real conversations. You're trying. You miss me, too. You miss being little; the innocence and the naivety and the complete trust that you are safe and secure and perfect in this world. You know it's gone, but maybe you know you will always be perfect to me.

This is the Indian Summer of your childhood. It won't last, but I am grateful for this gift. I wonder, hopefully, if this is a small window view into the man you will become some day. Thoughtful, respectful, sincere, loving and kind. I will hold onto this tiny piece of you, just as I have held onto the slobbery kisses and muddy footprints of your earliest boyhood. I will treasure this short period where you are mine again, just for a bit.

I promise, also, to appreciate the smelly sneakers and the million dirty dishes in your room. I will not take for granted the sound of Fortnite or your loud friends in the background. I am glad for the next few years while we are still an "us"; still share a living room and a couch; break bread and sleep under the same roof. I am grateful for you every day. I will miss these things when they are gone, too.

I love you on days like today when you reach for my hand, maybe for the last time, while we each read our own books on the same couch. I love you the same on days, maybe tomorrow, when you tell me I'm the worst and lock yourself in your room. I love you because of who you were, who you are, and who you will become. You are my sweet boy, even when you're not.


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