Looking Forward Looking Back

My youngest boy turned 13 this week. He is my newest teenager, but teenager he is. And so we are firmly in the phase known as parents of older children. Just. Like. That.

I dreaded these days. Back when the boys were little. And messy. And cried a lot. And needed help getting dressed. And got up too early and didn’t sleep through the night. In those days, I dreaded these days. Imagine that?

Dragging those three boys to the park so that they wouldn’t doze off in the afternoon. Prying their hands apart as they fought over an action figure. Mopping up spilled juice. Cleaning most of the dinner off of the floor. Temper tantrums.

Sometimes well-meaning moms of olders would warn me: If you think this is hard, wait until they are teenagers.

And my dread would begin.

I’m happy to say, we’re ok. Three boys over twelve, at least for me, is far easier than three boys under five. Hands down.

I liked them. I loved them. My small boys. I did. Their squeaky voices and soft skin. Their teeth growing in. And falling out. Their weird obsession with fire trucks. The Wiggles. Sippy cups. It was a magical time. With so many new beginnings.

I like these guys, too. They are magical. And they are also beginning. They are at a point in their lives they will remember. They’ll recall entire days. Expressions. Friends. Everyone has teenage memories. They will, too.

I can converse with them. About funny stuff and serious stuff. And they respond. Sometimes they agree and sometimes not. They’re smarter than I am and have better debate skills. I’ve lost philosophical arguments. And been proud anyway.

My oldest son and I visit many colleges. We keep saying we are done. But then we decide maybe one more. We have a ritual. I drag him out of bed. Buy him breakfast. He eats, falls asleep in the car. I listen to my music on the ride, instead of his. Mine is better, but talking to him, even with his music, is best. I like when he wakes up.

The college tours are all wonderful. The colleges are all wonderful. Especially the dining halls. There is real food now, so different from when I was there. And the dorm rooms. And everything. It’s just so exciting. So life-beginning.

One college visit is special, for both of us. We drive to Connecticut and meet my son’s cousin, my nephew. He is a junior and has agreed to show us around his school. Neither of us knows him well and we are both concerned we will run out of conversation. We do not. And I am relieved.

He looks like my son, my nephew does. Skinny. A perfect post-braces smile. Blue eyes. Young, yes, but no longer high school young. Just a touch beyond it. He moved off campus this year. And shops for his own food, rides his bike to class. He speaks with ease. Answers our questions. Doesn’t look for validation. Or wonder if he said the right thing. He’s just comfortable. It’s nice.

And now, as I did when the boys were young, I worry about what’s next. Will it be magical?  Could it be magical? Again? Is that possible? When my boy no longer lives with us. When I don’t know if he’s tucked in at night and up in the morning. If he’s eaten breakfast. Done his homework. Studied for that test.

Will he make the right decisions? Will he have fun? Really great, falling-down-laughing fun? And selfishly, I wonder: can it ever be better than it is now? Right now?

It is the perfect tour. Our favorite tour.  Not just because our tour guide is a student, but because he is our student. Part of us. Family. And I am thrilled that we are here. And that together, my son and I get to see what might just be the next beginning.

And maybe. Maybe, there is nothing to dread.

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