The other day, I was walking behind the boys as they trotted hand in hand down the corridor to the lift, and it dawned on me that they have grown quite a fair bit this year. To be sure, they are both still on the (very) small side, but I distinctly remember those too-long school shorts reaching below David’s knees on that first day of Primary 1 that now seems like such a distant memory. Those same shorts are a clear 2 cm above his knee now. And I marvel at Daryl’s newfound swagger and style of walking that he only picked up sometime this year too. How my heart ached in that moment of realisation that my boys are growing up right before my eyes…
It’s a strange mixture of pride and sorrow that every parent feels as they watch their children grow, a cocktail of emotions that can’t even be put into adequate words. If you’re a parent, chances are you know what I mean; if you’re not, perhaps this will give you new insight into how your parents feel, and probably have felt since the day you rolled over, learnt to crawl, ate your first bite, and took your first step.
Parenting is such sweet sorrow. Case in point:
“Mummy, so after this year Primary 1, then I’ll be Primary 2 right? And then… Primary 3 and then 4 and then 5 and then 6, and then… and then what?”
“After you finish primary school, you will go to secondary school, like all the kor kors and jie jies in church.”
“Ok, then after secondary school then what?”
“Then… you can choose to go to the polytechnic or to junior college. And then, after that, you can go to university if you get good marks. You must see what you want to do.”
“Ok, then after that I am adult right?”
“Then I can get married and have a wife and become a daddy. Yay, I want to become a daddy. I can’t wait to grow up!!”
Oh, the heartmelt! But I also found myself tearing and thinking, “No, David, please don’t want to grow up so fast. Don’t grow up too quickly. Take your time…”
But then he takes forever to nibble at his food at mealtime, or whines about having to do his homework, or plays with water during bath time, and I get annoyed and spit out a “You’re already a big boy, seven years old. You should know how to eat/work/behave better by now! Please behave yourself.”
Such a contradiction.
Sometimes, David doesn’t want to hold my hand when we are out. “Mummy, I can walk on my own already.” When he loses his homework assignment and has to face the music in school, he no longer begs me to write a note to the teacher, but bravely speaks to her himself. He’s had friends come and go, this tumultuous year of increased social awareness, and I’ve been worried and sad on his behalf at times, but he’s shown me such resilience and courage, and made me so proud.
And Daryl goes to his Berries bag to take out his book and electronic pen to read through the lesson all on his own without me needing to ask him to anymore. He chooses what he wants to wear every day, with a “Mummy, today I wear this tee shirt and this shorts. Ok?” That little boy has shown his gentleman side this year, learning to hold the lift for us when we’re slow in coming, and going to the water station to get everyone a glass of water without us having to ask, then carrying them over carefully, one by one.
“He’s growing up,” I’ve whispered to the hubby on several occasions this year, and we give a mutual sniff and unconscious hug, as we accept the fact.
One day, he won’t need me to sit with him to fall asleep at night. He won’t ask me for a cuddle or one last story before bedtime. He won’t hold my hand when we are crossing the road. He won’t ask me for help with his homework, because it will be beyond what I know.
The teenage years will certainly challenge us in many new ways as parents. I watch my boys sitting with their kor kor friends, and marvel at the fact that this will be them just 10 years down the road… Sometimes, I feel scared thinking about it, even though I still have another 5 years to go before I have my first teen in the house.
Yet, there are a few families who have encouraged me to look forward to this not-so-distant future, without them even knowing it. Moms of teenage boys, whom I look up to, and who continue to enjoy a lasting, loving relationship with their sons. They are proof to me that it is possible for lovable little boys to grow up to be young men who will not outgrow their parent’s hearts. (It begins now…)
Over time, I am pretty certain they will keep secrets from me, make choices I don’t agree with, and make a family of their own, but I can always have a special irreplaceable place in their hearts, and them in mine. In every season, we can choose to walk in love and hope. It’s possible – it’s only possible by His grace.
Growing up sometimes means growing away, but it doesn’t have to mean growing cold, or indifferent, or unkind. So take heart, I say to myself. Everything in its time.