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Don't Blink

My son is starting his freshman year of high school.  You know how people tell you not to blink when they're little?  I blinked.  Who is this young man standing in front of me?  So full of confidence and excitement for these next stages of life.  I've literally seen him grow right before my eyes in the last few months.  It's like it happened over night.  How do parents handle this transition from middle school to high school?  Boyhood to manhood?

I've written about Henry in the past, his endearing quirks and oddities.  He's taught me patience on a new level as he seems to handle life on his own terms and at his own speed, marching to his own drum.

His dad and I sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him how proud we are of him.  And we told him that high school brings with it a different level of expectation along with new levels of independence and privilege.  We told him to suit up and be ready.  And I think he heard us, because he is doing awesome in his classes.  He comes home and he does his homework without complaining, and is actually turning in his work - a giant change for Henry.  He's doing what we've been working so hard to try and develop within him for the last 8 years.  He's focused and determined, discovering the relevance of school to his life and future.  He's finally starting to work on his dreams and transform them into goals.  It's what I've always wanted for him.

So why do I feel my heart breaking a little each time I look at him and see his baby fat melting away and his adult body starting to take shape?  Why do I feel a lump in my throat when we're all sitting together at the dinner table laughing and sharing our stories?  Because it all seems so fleeting and I'm powerless to stop the grains of sand from slipping through my fingers, turning those moments into memories.

The other night we watched Henry play in a football game, then went to his back to school night where we walked his schedule and listened to the intensity that each class seemed to expect.  And I was in such disbelief that Henry was ready for this and that he was actually doing it.  Not because I doubted him, but because we had finally arrived at this day, this milestone that I have been dreading since the first time I held him in my arms.  When I got home, he told me that he had asked a girl to homecoming and she had said yes.  It was too much for my already swollen heart to hold and the tears came pouring out.  Tears of relief, pride, and a bitter sweetness.  If I could stop time and hold onto one moment just a little longer, that would be the night.   No, don't let him grow so fast.

Life seems to be this ongoing lesson of letting go.  Sometimes ridding ourselves of negativity and burdens, and other times releasing things that we love, things we wish we could hold on to and keep close to our hearts.  How do I let my baby grow up?  How do I watch my son become a man?  I honestly don't know.

But I know it will happen one moment at a time, and that these moments will add up to days, and days will turn to years.  And time will go on with its relentless march and I'll watch him become the man I know he can be.   I'll watch him navigate the highs and lows of life.  I'll watch him falter and get back up, twice as strong.  I'll watch him do things I never knew he was capable of.  I'll watch him go farther than I ever dreamed possible.

If only I could stop blinking.

Henry 2007
Henry 2018

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