When a Boy Becomes a Man

Last week, I went through a bit of a surreal experience.  I took the Boy to the high school where I work because, next year, the Boy will be a freshmen there.  Now, I have been taking the Boy to my high school since he was six months old, and since the Boy has been in school, he has dreamed of attending my school when he was a high schooler.

Last week was “VIP Night” and the Boy and I went and, for the first time, I went as a parent, not a teacher.  Personally, I felt discombobulated…like a part of my identity was lost and I really wasn’t certain what I was supposed to do.  I’m using to going to my high school because I had been there for going on fourteen years.  And now, this simple building is about to become our high school.  No longer will the Boy be a guest; he will be a student.

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The Boy’s first smile and laugh…nearly 14 years ago.

I have been preparing for this for three years.  The Boy was sent to a feeder middle school on a waiver so that when he arrives at my high school he would have friends.  I thought I was being warm and friendly and a good mom.  Everyone told me that I was.  And I am still certain that I made the right decision.

And it’s been a great three years because, every day, I drive the Boy to his middle school and I leave and drive a half mile to my high school and we spend the day orbiting separate planets and living separate lives.  Cool.  I can deal with that.  And then, at the end of the day, the Boy walks to my school where he hangs out in my classroom and chats with my colleagues and my students.

And then came last week, last Tuesday, when I walked the Boy into what will become his high school and I will step outside of his orbit even though our orbits are going to align and I will have to force myself not to invade his orbit so that he can continue to grow into a young man and not into a momma’s boy.  Because I want the Boy to be a young man who is independent of his parents and is self-confident and self-assured but has a good relationship with his parents.  And, in order to accomplish this, I know that I will have to drive him that last half mile to our school where he will go and take classes with his teachers who are also my colleagues and make friends with my students who will also be his friends.

The boundary lines are blurred and I’m a bit confused and completely aware and confident in what is about to occur.  Because we have been building up a foundation towards this moment but I’m not ready for this.

Which is slightly killing me as well.

Kindergarten:  I sent him off to school with no tears, no whininess about how “my baby’s all grown up.”  Puhleeze.  I went to school.  The Husband put the Boy on the Bus and School happened.  I don’t even remember the first day of kindergarten.  Of course, I made sure that the Boy had a good kindergarten introduction by taking him out for lunch and then letting him choose a bouquet of flowers for his future teacher (come on….sucking up is a good thing).

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The Boy trying on his kindergarten backpack.

Middle School:  That was hard because middle school was hell for me and I was afraid of the sharks who would happily consume and destroy the Boy.  In middle school, the Boy was bullied and stood up to bullies and got a girl friend and had his heart handed to him on a plate and grew and grew and grew.  And I fretted and wanted to descend upon that school like a maelstrom and show the people who broke my son’s heart that they were wrong and should apologize but the Boy stood up and stood between the school and me and said that he was going to care for himself.  And he did.  Sometimes, I still stepped in and advocated for the Boy.  More often than not, the Boy toughed it out on his own and didn’t relent in his pursuit of goodness and compassion.  He did not let the bullies destroy him.  He won.

But now he is a rising ninth grader and is definitely not my baby.  He is going to be a student in a school where people have already embraced him with open arms and shown him love and compassion far beyond anything I could have hoped for.  I am so grateful for all the people who have already opened their hearts to the Boy and shown him kindness not because he is my son but because he is a young man, a student, a human being.

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One of my favorite pictures of the Boy. This is the Man I see him becoming. Dignified, fearless, and good…just plain good.

The pronouns I am using to describe the high school are changing.  My must be replaced with ours because the Girl is planning on following the Boy’s footsteps to the high school which will eventually become their alma mater.  And I recognize that the greatest challenge I am going to face is stepping back and letting the Boy become a Man and, eventually, the Girl to become a Woman.

I am ready for them to grow.  I welcome each new phase of their lives and never mourn what was in the past.  I loved them as infants.  I love them even more as they enter adolescence and our conversations move from which Disney Prince is the handsomest to the complexities of life and the moral ambiguity that exists between right and wrong.

Oh, my Boy, the halls I have walked will soon bear the textures of your shadow and will echo with the rich nuances of your laugh.  And I look forward to this, but just bear with me as I stumble around and flounder with mistakes as I recognize the Man you are becoming.  I respect the distance that you are inserting, but the inches that you shove between the circumference of my arms and the axis of where you are standing hurts.

But the hurt is good and inevitable and temporary.  Because someday you will grow well beyond the circumference of my arms and will create a circumference that someone else will fall into and will claim as his/her own plane of comfort and nurturing.  And I look forward to that because, dear Boy, you are a fabulous Man.

But my classroom is still mine.  But I’ll let you decorate it so your baby pictures don’t embarrass you too much.

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The Boy and I. Yes, he is taller than me. And very good looking!

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