For As Long As He Lets Me

I volunteer at my son's school quite a bit and for now, he actually wants me to be there. He's still very young in terms of elementary school years. I've noticed however that he's becoming a little bit shier when it comes to his hellos. His enthusiastic hello waves that were once on display high up in the air have now become a quick semi circle down low by his hip. My name, "Mommy," has been replaced by "Mom" unless he calls out for me in the middle of the night because he's not feeling well. For the most part, he still allows hugs, but definitely not as many public kisses. A quick kiss on his forehead before he heads into school is completely acceptable. Anything more, and I'd be pushing it towards the realm of parental embarrassment.

I enjoy volunteering for so many reasons but volunteering at school allows me to look ahead at what my son might look like in terms of height, relationships with others, and conversations he'll have with peers. A few of the moms with older children also help out to catch a glimpse of their kiddos. It's the end of the school year so their children are looking like Gulliver growing out of their school clothes. The boys' pants look as if they're waiting for a flood and the girls skirts, whether intentional or not, are getting shorter. Many of these children look like they're already in high school. The middle school moms scan the crowds in the lunchroom looking for their progeny. Their children barely look up when their moms approach. Since we were kids once too we know that when friends are around, it's not cool to have mom hugging on you, or for you to look terribly interested in conversing with her other than mumbling a quick reply of "Good" when asked how your day is going. Between homework, sports, and after-school activities, this may be the only quality time these moms spend with their kids that day and they long for the close connection they see between the moms with the younger ones -- the high pitched squeal of "Hi Mommy" when they walk into the lunchroom, the big bear hugs, the excitement of seeing someone you love after an absence, even if that absence has been only a few hours since you dropped them off at school.

As our children age and their vocabulary becomes more extensive, their words somehow become fewer, and their enthusiasm more subdued unless of course they've won a sports game, or the girl they asked out said "Yes" to a date. In general, they all begin to smell of armpits and feet. Some boys consider allowing the hairs above their lips to grow long enough so that it looks like they've smudged dirt just above their mouths, while the girls begin to bathe themselves in all things floral, fruity and bubble gum scented. Their conversations are less demonstrative and more cerebral. My mom friends with children this age often complain that they're not sure what to do. If you try talking to preteens/teens, they claim they don't want to talk. If you try to hug them, they tell you to leave them alone. Where did that chubby little baby go; the child always willing to share a moist, breathy secret with their lips pressed firmly against your ear, the one who said they wanted to marry their mom or dad when they grew up?

I look at these moms and then at my own young child and my heart aches. As I've said many times, in my mind I know my son doesn't belong to me. He is his own person with his own thoughts, feelings and goals, but it pains me to know that some day I will be that mom in the lunchroom looking longingly at my gangly preteen and wanting to hold him for just a little longer than he would ever allow. I will be the mom looking at all the kindergarten moms and think, "Where did the time go?" For now I will try to remember to treasure the time I am given with him. I will let him hug me for as long as he wants. I will let him repeat the corny joke he's told me 100 times before, and I will laugh and reply, "That's a good one." But most of all, I will make sure to kiss my baby boy good night, every night...for as long as he lets me.

Peace, love, and lots of chocolate, ~HZM

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