It was the oldest one this night, not the youngest. Though I had evacuated my littlest from our bed a bit earlier than usual, his place was filled quickly by the biggest brother, my oldest of four children. He's just eleven, but his growing up seems to spiral too quickly for my liking.
Earlier this evening, it was not quite dark yet and a friend pointed out a group of near teenagers and I squinted my eyes to make out the not quite old but not quite young figures coming around the corner of our old church. I was taken aback to see that my son was one of the nearly grown looking figures amongst the group, his outline barely visible in the twilight, taller and leaner than I remembered. I caught the way his head turned as he smiled, confidence riding along his laughter.
Where had my little boy gone? The one with the cherubic cheeks, the blond ringlets, the pug nose and the dimpled hands. Had he slipped past me unaware after all? No, he hasn't and can't as I am quite vigilant in my observation, the careful monitoring of his climbing towards upper childhood. I don't worry too much about him these days as I've discovered that the act of worry soaks up the too valuable thoughts of wonder and admiration that I've found much more to my liking.
"Can I lay with you?" he asked. I hesitated, if only for a few seconds, my dreams of sleep and quiet had evaded me now for nearly a dozen years. Would another evening matter? It seemed unlikely I would lament that time for quiet and peacefulness and so, I conceded defeat and he scampered for his pillow and blankie and climbed beside me, inches from the mother whose lap no longer shields him. Years of neediness for a mother gone and today, she is the one he hesitates to hug, the mother he no longer begs to join him for lunch in the school cafeteria, the mother he told recently that she didn't know all of his friends.
Once upon a time it was she that cultivated friendships for the little boy who had always been more sensitive than sturdy, sweet than tough, funny than sneaky, and now, he made friends all on his own, no longer dependent on those play dates carefully planned by Mama. I'll relish the boy that lays next to me and I'll try not to cling to the thoughts of his little boy self as I don't want to miss the wonder of his beauty in today. My precious son.