Dealing with our children's growth seems to be one of the most difficult things for me. Yes, I want them to mature, grow up, and be able to do something without having to be told every little thing. On the other hand, growing up inevitably brings the increased probability of them doing more and more on their own, sometimes in places and ways we'd rather not see them going. We want them to stay our wonderful children forever and at the same time we want them to grow up and be able to take care of themselves. We want them to be the innocent, playful kids we love spending time with and at the same time we want them to experience the freedom that comes from taking responsibility for themselves and the joy that comes from accomplishments beyond making their beds every day. Ah the complexities of parenting...
Over the past few months I've watched my wonderful Matthew become more and more a 'Man' and less and less the child. He began working out several times a week so his body has begun to look much more grown up. He has taken on more and more responsibilities around the house without complaining and is actually more of a team member than someone who needs coached. He is beginning to get the subtleties of when to be quiet and when it is okay to correct his younger siblings, and he contributes to the family planning sessions in a much more active role instead of the constant complainer wondering when all of the work will be done so he can play. And I think he's actually getting the whole 'get the work done so you have the rest of the day to play' thing down pat. And this weekend, he decided it was time to shave.
Shaving. A rite of passage that I am quite sure I wasn't prepared for. Couldn't even imagine just a few short years ago when he used to play at shaving along with Poppy in the mirror. Oh, back then it was cute. His little 2 year old body sitting between the two sinks on the bathroom counter, his face covered in shaving cream, his play razor removing it stroke by stroke just like Poppy. This past weekend it was no longer a game. He stood next to Poppy behind the second sink in the bathroom, carefully covering his face with shaving cream, grasping a real razor in his hand, intently watching Poppy as he instructed him on the finer points of shaving for the first time.
When I saw his freshly shaved face several hours later it brought back to me one more time that I'm not the only one struggling with this dichotomy of growth. I'm not the only one crying for the loss of the little boy and marveling at the wonderful Man my son is becoming. No, I'm not alone. In that freshly shaved face I realize that he's right there with me. He's discovering the joy of growing up and doing things you only dream about when you are young. He realizes he has the world at is feet and he must make his choices much more carefully than he did when he was younger because we won't always be there to fix his mistakes for him. He can do and achieve anything he sets his mind to. And yet, in order to accomplish all of that he must let go of the child within. He will spend some of the next few years intentionally letting the young boy within him go so he can grow in new directions, stopping the desires he's comfortable with to reach out to bigger and better things for himself and his siblings as he leads the way. Quietly crying now and then as he realizes you can't go back. Yes, he's right there with me. And I'm so very proud of him.
My baby is growing up. But his Mom and Dad, and his Honey and Poppy will always be here for him. We'll always love him unconditionally and be cheering for him from the sidelines. And he'll always have a safe place to come to when he needs it most. I'll be waiting here. With open arms, a warm cookie and a cold glass of milk. And he'll once again be able to dream bigger dreams, build bigger machines and try on bigger ideas. After all, you can do anything in life when you have roots to lovingly hold you and wings to fly.