One mother wonders about the man her son may become, and another wonders how her son has all of a sudden become a man.
KRISTIN, MOTHER OF A 4-YEAR-OLD BOY:
Driving down the road in a tree-lined suburban neighborhood, I see two teenage boys driving golf carts. The one in front is wearing a red polo and plaid pants. He pushes a lock of his dark hair aside and then sticks his hand out to touch the leaves on the trees next to him. The boy behind him calls out to him and they laugh, without a care in the world.
I see them and a flash-forward image of my son at that age pops into my field of vision; I nearly stop the car to shake it off. A wave of wistfulness washes over me with the knowledge that my son will reach this age more quickly than I can imagine right now. For an instant, I want to freeze time.
In the next instant, I feel a sense of relief for the parents of these boys that they have grown up so strong and healthy and independent. They have the good fortune of watching them grow. They have done their job the best they knew how.
I wonder what I will know about my son when he is the age of these two boys driving golf carts on a quiet street. And I wonder what he will know about me.
Will he remember that his father or I would lie next to him in bed every night until he fell asleep?
Will he remember that he would wake every morning with a smile and an "I love you, Mama"?
Will he remember playing baseball with us in the front yard, complete with the bases and bat his father had lovingly picked out for him?
Will he remember falling off his new bike in the first five minutes that he tried it? Will he remember that I cajoled him back on the bike and helped him gain his confidence back until he could do it by himself?
The reality is that he might not. But I will.
And when he gets to be a teenager, I will know that I have done my best to instill the values we believe in and taught him right from wrong and exhibited the kindness we want him to embody as well. I will know that he has successfully grown from baby to toddler to preschooler to boy to young man.
I will be relieved that I have gotten him to this point in our journey together. It will be a downhill ride for him on his own, without the training wheels at that point. It will be up to him to decide which activities, which classes, which sports to choose. He will choose his friends and girlfriends and he will learn what it means to love and be loved. He will understand hurt more than I wish he would, even knowing that it is necessary for him to grow.
He will be taller than I am, most likely, and stronger. He will be smarter, I have no doubt.
We will celebrate, the three of us, that he has reached young-man status and that life is good. This is my wish, always.
He will know that I am soft-hearted but firm. He will know that I am silly and will break out in a dance or song at the drop of a hat. He will know that I will talk to everyone and anyone and will probably embarrass him, just as my mother did. He will know where he gets his love of music and sports and wide-open spaces.
He will know that his parents love him more than anything in the whole world.
We are just beginning; and yet, four years have flown by as fast as a shooting star. I love this stage so much; he is still sweet and likes to hug mom and tells me fantastic stories he has made up from bits and pieces he has picked up along the way. I'm trying not to blink; 18 will come sooner than I want to imagine.
In the meantime, I will know this: these fleeting moments are each a drop of gold.
ALEXANDRA, MOTHER OF AN 18-YEAR-OLD BOY:
Eighteen years wasn't long enough.
I watch you as you sit on the sofa tonight, beautiful, young and dark-haired, with the bright blue eyes I've been looking into for this, my 18th year as a mother. You're excitedly planning your applications for colleges. You ask me for my input. Should you stay in the Midwest? Would California be too far?
I tell you the answer that is the right answer: I want you to be wherever you want to be. I say that I wouldn't complain if you picked the university two hours away, and pretend to be joking.
The truth is, I love you so much that I want you to be free and unencumbered in your dreams; I want your hopes to take you where you imagine happiness to be. I am grateful that I can pull myself away from the mothering soul inside me that aches with the wish to keep you always in the days of when we'd play trains together, and you'd pull me by the hand over to your side of the table, "See, mama... see? Stay sitting over here by me..."
To hold you forever in those days would serve me, but never you. You have your life to live now, and I want it to be one of adventure, happiness and confidence. I don't want you to feel that you can't leave me because I will crumble without you. We both know without me saying that in those first days when you're gone, as I walk past your room that no longer holds you while you sleep, I'll wander among your things, and wish the boy back who once called this home.
It's so funny, I somehow always imagined myself being the mother of little boys forever. Never seeing an end to these days, I lived them as if they were limitless in their count. And much too fast, we've come to the end of the diamonds in this mine. With each month that passes in this last year of you being home with us, the time of your undeniable leaving looms large. But it can't take away the beauty of the full facet of the jewels from these days, the wonder of the creation you've become. In what hour did you grow into the handsome, kind, considerate man who shares this life with me? Wasn't this supposed to happen bit by bit, not all at once?
But it is all at once, and, tonight, I can only think how very fortunate I am that I still have you within arm's reach. And even though I know there is no way that I could have possibly done and given and been the mother that I dreamed for you, I know that somewhere in our history together, I grew worthy of your love and trust... I know. For what other explanation could there be, that you still allow this woman, so foolish in her desperate adoration of you, to come to you where you sit now on the sofa and take your hand, while you lean into her shoulder and say, "See, mama...? You can stay sitting over here by me..."
You can find Alexandra at Good Day, Regular People, as well as writing regular columns at Aiming Low, Mom Renewal Project, MilwaukeeMoms, Sprocket Ink, and TikiTikiblog. She was named a 2011 BlogHer Voice of the Year for humor. In 2012, she was chosen to be part of The Moth's National Live Story Tellers Tour, and presented alongside Molly Ringwald. Alexandra is also a co-producer/director for the Listen to Your Mother show in Milwaukee.
Kristin Shaw is a freelancer by day, writer by night, a full-time wife of an Austin native, and mother of a mini-Texan. She's proud to be a co-producer of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show in Austin. You can find her on Twitter (@AustinKVS), her blog, Two Cannoli, or at The Huffington Post.