One of my very favorite things about parenting would have to be those moments when, after a bout of independence, your child comes running to you. They touch base and then they’re off again. It has many forms: the hug/tackle hybrid, the standing and waiting for a peck on the head or cheek, the delivering of news, good bad or ugly. The presenting of an object with full trust that you’ll see the magic it possesses, too.
They’re checking in; you are home base.
Reassured by your presence, they can go back to exploring. On days when this mom gig can feel a touch thankless, or when I feel like more than a touch of a failure, I hold on to this. I love that my children know that I’m here, always; that they can run far and wide and wild, adventure after adventure, and I will always be a place to which they can return.
Our oldest entered his teens this year. While twelve was a decidedly more difficult stage for us, thirteen has involved more pulling away. This hasn’t been done out of anger, or even moodiness; it’s simply the natural progression of a child getting ever-closer to adulthood. It’s natural, yes, but it sure can cause an ache in a mama’s heart.
He wanders farther and longer now without seeming to need much reassurance at all. Gone are the days of knock-down hugs or Lego creations held up proudly for my approval. Not even the passive, Great Dane-like leans, his full weight slowly pushed onto my shoulder with a lazy grin, remain. A kiss on the top of my head recently was such a shock that I let out a weird, loud laugh. It was in my surprise that I realized just how long it had been between that kiss and the one before it.
He wanders, and I can’t help but wonder: how long before I’m no longer home base at all?
I’m slowly learning, however, that these teenage years mean changing up my thinking; the needs haven’t left, and they’ve only barely changed. My job, as much as anything in this season, is to learn the language of nuance; to read between the lines, to listen carefully for the things he won’t say out loud, and to observe. In the middle of my bible studies, he comes and flops his solid, adult-sized body onto my bed, pens and highlighters and paper bouncing everywhere, to show me some ridiculous meme or YouTube video. I’ve come to see that he enjoys the challenge of making me laugh; he’s old enough to recognize laughter as a big love language of mine. These and the obligatory goodnight/goodbye squeezes will be my hugs for now. He hops up on the kitchen counter with his ukulele, strumming a new song while I cook, and I recognize this to be the Lego forts, held up yet again for my approval.
I try not to make too much fuss over having cracked the code because I know all too well it could change at any moment. For now, I’ll just keep putting my pen down, looking up, and laughing with him. I’ll nod my head along with his songs that bring our kitchen to life. I’ll remember that his biggest adventures lie before him, and in time I’ll learn the proper footing in the dance of letting go while holding on.