Thursday, October 4, 2018


12 years old. Sixth grade. It doesn't seem possible.

Personality-wise, I can describe Will similarly to how I have described him in his last two birthday posts. He enjoys and does well in school, and at this point in the fall has settled comfortably into his second year of intermediate school. He gravitates toward competitive sports, but focuses primarily on soccer and running. He dreams of following in the musical footsteps of either Pentatonix's Kevin Olusola on the cello or The Beatles' Ringo Starr on the drums. He plays a mean game of chess, saves his money and free time for Fortnite, and loves a good video game tournament with his dad on the weekend. I am - we all are - extraordinarily proud to call him ours.

This year was a significant one for Will on a couple of fronts. We spent the better part of six months supporting him through a - successful - peanut desensitization designed to train his immune system to no longer react to peanut exposure. He continues to eat 12 peanuts each day to maintain his desensitized state and does so without issue. Just one day after Will completed the peanut desensitization, he scored himself top and bottom braces, which he has adjusted to surprisingly well all things considered. The peanut eating combined with the braces has been challenging, so he's looking forward to the day when one or the other finally disappears. Will also suffered a fairly significant injury to his face this summer, courtesy of a cute little cousin with a rock solid head. Thankfully we learned a couple of weeks ago that no bones were broken during the contact and that while Will suffered some damage to the soft tissue and fat pads in his face, we don't need to intervene medically right now.
Face Injury
Soft Tissue Damage

A few weeks ago Will and I had a rough evening as mother and son. I learned something troubling, brought the problem to Will's attention, reprimanded Will for his behavior and choices, and dolled out what I felt were appropriate consequences.

When all was said and done, I felt sick to my stomach. I hate reprimanding or punishing my kids, but in this situation a simple "do better next time" seemed inadequate. My heart hurt for Will because I knew how awful he felt, but I also battled anger toward Will both because of the choices he had made and for "forcing" me to address this difficult topic and turning our evening sour. I felt like I had failed Will and he had failed me, and while we eventually talked about these feelings, the conversation didn't immediately make them disappear.

We woke up in the morning unable to start fresh. Will had tasks ahead of him - related to fixing the problem of the evening prior - that he needed to accomplish before the day's end, and I couldn't yet release the frustration and betrayal of the night before.

Most days Will rides his bike or walks to school. I have never ridden nor do I regularly walk with him anymore, but we always bid one another farewell - with a hug and an "I love you" in both spoken English and sign language - in the garage or driveway as he heads off. On that morning, as I loaded dirty laundry into the washing machine Will walked by the laundry room, uttered a muffled goodbye, and hurried out the door before I could respond.

It took a minute or two for the gravity of what had just happened to sink in, but when it did, I nearly broke. I clutched the sides of the washing machine and watched as a huge crocodile tear rolled off my cheek and dropped silently onto the lid.

For 10 minutes I busied myself around the house, loading the dishwasher and vacuuming the carpet and packing my bag for the gym. I couldn't blame Will for leaving in a huff, but that didn't lessen my hurt. I didn't want him to feel the pain I was feeling though, so I picked up my phone to text him, thinking an "I love you" message waiting on his phone when he got to school might help his day go better. Just as I was about to hit send, the back the door swung open.

He came back.

He biked halfway to school, turned around, and came back.

He walked through the door, rushed across the kitchen, and gave me a hug. We clung to one another for longer than usual, and then we said and signed the words "I love you" and he slipped out the door a second time.

Those of you with kiddos older than mine know this already, but to all the mama bears (and daddies) for whom the milestone of 12 years old hasn't yet been reached, let me tell you - parenting big kids is no joke. The mistakes are bigger. The issues are bigger. The meltdowns and disappointments and heartbreak are all bigger. But so are the good things. The accomplishments. The pride. The joy and the laughter and the love.

It seems natural for me as Will's mother to wish time would slow down. The interesting and unexpected characteristic of this age - at least for Will - is that he too wishes time would slow down. He realized, on his own or through prompting from someone other than me, that his time in our home - as a child under our roof - is more than half over. When he told me this "fact", his face contorted in what he thought looked like a smile, but his eyes weren't smiling. And though no tears fell in that moment, his eyes looked glossy with moisture. I could see the internal struggle between little boy and teenager, and I could feel his hurting heart.

But I assured him, as firmly and intensely and lovingly as I have ever assured anyone of anything, that he can always come back. Halfway to school, halfway through college, halfway through life - he can ALWAYS come back. And I will be waiting, ready to welcome him with open arms no matter where he's been or what he's been through.

Oh, my sweet boy. You have taught me more than any other person - except perhaps my own mom - in the world. You have made this life more than I ever thought it could be, and nothing brings me more joy than being your mom.

Happy 12th birthday, Will. I love you to the moon and back plus infinity time a million with a cherry on top.

I won't have a High Five for Friday post tomorrow - my boy has all of my high fives covered for the week.

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