Friday, October 23, 2015

trying to make my son grow up



some decisions are hard. when you are a twelve year old, caught in the middle of childhood and the teen years, every decision seems hard. this month, my son has been faced with what to him seems the impossible choice. there is a church camp scheduled for the last weekend of october, a church camp with archery, laser tag, games, sports, friends...all amazing things. on the other hand, if he goes to the church retreat, he will miss halloween, dressing up, trick-or-treating with friends, and all the fun that includes. when i explained that the camp was over halloween weekend, my sons's entire countenance fell. "why would they do that? it is probably one of my last chances to ever dress up for halloween and get to trick or treat. why would they take that away from me?" it's a good question.

i can already hear the comments from people. "why is that a big deal?" "isn't he kind of big to be dressing up for halloween anyway?" "i think it's a no-brainer." "i know what i would do." and all of that is wonderful. sitting from an adult perspective and looking back, i know what i would do too. looking at it from the point of a 12 year old, i can understand the angst. everywhere my son goes, he is being told to grow up, be responsible, take control of his own school work, earn his own money, prepare for the future. he is being told to grow up, give up childish things, be as adult as possible. all the while, he is 12. twelve. years. old.

do you remember what it was like when we were twelve?  i realize we live in a different era but when i was 12, i was still playing tether ball. i didn't have pierced ears, or shave my legs or wear makeup. i still ran around outside and played hide-and-seek or wall ball or kick ball. i was still allowed to be a kid. now everywhere i turn, well meaning people are trying to get my child to act older, be older, grow up.

it seems the majority of those urging my son to grow up fall in two different categories. so, for those with babies not yet big enough to walk away or for those with grown kids already gone, let me just remind you of what it is like.

one day your sweet baby will walk into kindergarten orientation. they will let go of your hand they were holding and will look up full of bravery declaring, "you don't need to hold my hand anymore, mommy. i'm a big boy..." and you will struggle to breathe for the next several hours. one day that sweet infant that you hold in your arms will learn to walk and run. with that new found independence you will learn that they can walk away from you. that first realization is a sign of many moments of leaving to come. one day that sweet child you dress up as a princess or a dinosaur will look at costumes and declare themselves too old for halloween. you will see the sadness in their eyes with the realization and their own longing to still participate in the activities of childhood. one day that child that comes bounding off the bus with a huge smile and an even bigger hug for you will embarrassedly glance your way if he sees you in front of his friends. one day that sweet child who jumps up and down when you chaperone their field trips will ask you, politely, if you could not chaperone anymore. one day slobbery wet kisses on the lips will turn to forced pecks on the cheek. one day they will pile their belongings into a college dorm room and you will realize you won't see them everyday or live under the same roof ever again. one day they will be grown up and stay that way...and i for one am in no hurry to rush that.

so for today, i'm going to let my son be twelve. i'm going to encourage him to ride his bike or skateboard, to play tag and basketball. i'm going to encourage the watching of silly movies and the reading of adventure books. i'll laugh at his silly jokes and make time for fun and play every chance i get. i'm going to squeeze out hugs and kisses and giggles. i'm going to let him be twelve and enjoy the last years of childhood for my oldest. and i'd like to ask you to do the same. he will be grown up soon enough and will never be able to go back to childhood again. how about we all let him enjoy it?