Recently I was saying goodnight to my oldest son, who is now 14 and about to enter high school. I was standing in his bedroom looking at his midnight blue walls, which are covered in each of the planets. He looked up at me from his Pottery Barn bunk bed and said, “Mom, I need a new bed … and new walls.”
I stared at him, realizing my son was no longer a child, and said hurriedly, “Of course, sure, yes, of course.” He smiled back at me with his gorgeous blue-green eyes, the shape of his father’s and the color of mine.
What he was really saying was this: Mom, I’ve grown up.
I glanced around his room. There’s a monstrous Lego Death Star on his dresser, next to an algebra book. There’s size 10 soccer cleats next to a bullet from a nerf gun. Books are piled everywhere.
As I descended the stairs, my lips trembled a bit.
Where did 14 years go?
This is my son who rarely asks for anything. I buy him socks when I see holes and jeans when they’re too short. He is all about people and books, and he’s not into possessions. I love this about him. I’m sure it took a lot for him to ask me for a new bed, and he’s right; he has to sleep sideways to fit. He’s grown out it.
Fast forward three weeks, when we finally make it to the furniture store. The salesman tells him to test out each mattress. I stand motionless, gaping at my son, all 5′ 10″ of him stretched out long and gangly on a queen size mattress.
When did he become a man?
When will I lose him? Have I lost him?
It’s hard to swallow, standing in the furniture store. I feel my heart pounding. The salesman is speaking to my son and to me. I can’t hear anything, wanting for time to pass.
My son looks at me, and winks. I snap out of my fog and pay for the bed. We discuss colors to paint over Saturn’s rings and sheet colors.
My mind goes to his lasts.
When was the last time he put together a Lego set? When was the last time I carried him to bed? When was the last time he wore his favorite flannel PJs? When was the last time I tied his shoes?
How did I miss all of the lasts?
It all went so fast.
I am a doctor. I missed a lot. I missed soccer games, choir concerts, and bedtimes while I was helping someone else, so they could do life with their kids. So many sacrifices I have made, so many times I have had to leave him and his siblings to care for someone else.
Did I miss too much? Does he regret all the time I missed? Will he remember me when he trades in this bed for a dorm room loft?
We walk to the car, and my mind calculates the short four years remaining with him under my roof.
Suddenly, there’s a lanky arm around my shoulders. I feel a chin resting on the top of my head.
“It will be OK Mom,” he whispers. “It will be OK.”
Using the same words I have said to him a million times, he washes away my sadness. Despite my silence, he knows exactly what I’m thinking.
I will never lose him.
This I know.
Sasha K. Shillcutt is an anesthesiologist who blogs at Brave Enough.
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