The other day I felt a bit frantic. Up until then, I hadn’t been freaking out about this transition. You have been cool about leaving elementary school and starting middle school so I thought I would join you. “This is not a big deal,” I agreed. You’re right. I figured I could just glide into this next phase with grace and aplomb.
But then you walked off to middle school all by yourself. I heard the sound of tires squealing as both grace and aplomb ditched me and panic pulled up. I tried to grab you for a quick hug goodbye and squishy baby fat didn’t welcome my arms. Instead, they weirdly bounced off of a solid wall of muscle.
You are changing right now. Your energy is so hard to lose that you sometimes pace around our kitchen like a caged tiger ready to pounce. Your body has lost its slack and loops. You are a coil now.
I heard a workman in our yard the other day and I went to see who it was. It was you. Using your new voice to talk to your brother. I sometimes think a 50 year-old man has moved into your chest. Then, I am reminded it’s still you because you begin a sentence with the squeak of your kid voice before that old guy takes over.
You are getting quieter. That’s the one that hits me the hardest. You don’t invite me in to all of your thoughts. Most of the time, you choose silence. You guard your words carefully and share them with me only when you deem it worthwhile. I miss the open door policy you used to have. I could walk around your thoughts with you and we could check out the merchandise together. Now you are like the clerk in a fancy store. I wait in line for my turn. You listen to my request and then go in the back to check and see if you have anything available for me.
Lucky for me, though, I am one crafty mother. That sentence can be read in the literal sense or in the street wise way and they are both fact. I am one crafty mutha. I can change with the times and middle school just makes me up my game.
I will sit down with you over a snack you can’t resist. I am always smart enough to sneak in when I can. I, too, am coiled like a tiger ready to pounce. I lie in wait with freshly made brownies or a “yes” to the Goldfish crackers I know you will always eat and we will talk.
That 50 year-old man voice doesn’t fool me. It’s still the voice you use when you tell me that you think you’ll use your birthday gift certificate to buy a stuffed animal. Or the voice that asks to watch an episode of Sherlock together. That old guy assures me it didn’t scare you at all but I watch as you turn on every light in the whole house to illuminate your way to your new bedroom down in the basement. I know you are still mostly kid in there. I am smart enough to enjoy that side of you before it slips away.
I now have to window-shop your thoughts instead of being invited in. I can live with that if I must. I do my research while you are quiet. I read about sports so that you will want to share your words with me again. I ask you about an athlete you love and I get at least a ten-minute conversational volley out of you. See that? I am even using your sports metaphors in my writing now! Seriously crafty.
And off we go! I’m sorry; I mean off you go to middle school. I will remain in the background and watch from afar. I accept your quiet and understand that you want to keep more of your thoughts for yourself. I promise you that my parenting will remain full of slack and loops. My squishy middle-aged lady fat will always accept your hugs. The squishy fat is because, just like you, I love freshly made brownies. But I will always accept your hugs because I also love the hell out of you, kid.
About the author: Stephanie Olson is a mom of two boys. She lives and writes in Seattle, dreams of Paris and firmly believes that there is nothing in life a little Tater Tot hot dish couldn’t fix. Her work has appeared in ParentMap magazine, Seattle Weekly and she was a 2016 cast member of Listen To Your Mother in Seattle. You can read more from Stephanie on her blog, Ma Swell Vie or find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/maswellvie/