I picked Riley up from school the other day and while I was waiting in the hall before the bell rang he came skipping out of his classroom with a lanky brown-haired girl. They raced towards the cafeteria together, on a mission to bring back the lunchboxes, and I saw him reach out and fumble to take her hand. She hesitated, but gripped him amiably for a bit before they let go to swing their arms in a fist-pumping burst of speed.

He can be a loud boy, an obnoxious boy, occasionally a rude and selfish boy—but oh, he can be as tender as the milky base of a grass stem.

At seven years old he doesn’t have any idea that some kids might not want to hold hands and I felt a confusing whoosh of loving him so much for that gesture and being terrified that the girl would mock him for it. Jesus, this age of big-little is filled with so many new things and I have chastised him, sometimes, for his tenderness, for weeping over small wounds or being afraid of movie scenes or whatever it is. Grow up, I’ve snapped.

I finished Rick Bragg’s The Prince of Frogtown last night. It’s a memoir inspired by Bragg’s relationship with his ten-year-old stepson, and towards the end, he writes,

The little boy started to fade, just like we left him in the sun too long. (…) He had been a ragamuffin, hurled into space by the seat of his pants. Suddenly, he shopped for shirts, and worried about his hair. He got too heavy to throw. (…) He turned twelve, then thirteen, and then the little boy just disappeared.
Just when you start to get used to it, to not minding it so much, it all vanishes, and the little boy you launched in the air stands at your shoulders like a man, and when you turn to say something you find yourself looking right into his eyes.
He is not helpless, not needy.
He is everything I rushed him to be.

Do you know how sometimes you read something, and it’s like the air in the room grows heavy? Like something you can touch, like you’re held fast by the words. I felt that way, last night. My god.

He is everything I rushed him to be.

Comments

88 Responses to “It all vanishes”

  1. Randy on September 19th, 2012 3:36 pm

    Is it innocent hand holding or did he have something more in mind? I remember being that age. ;)

  2. Sue on September 19th, 2012 3:38 pm

    My son is almost 21 now. Last week i found baby pics of him. I was only 18 myself. It was like looking at pictures of strangers. Beautiful, strange children. I wondered what they could have been, if only i’d made different choices. And i wept.

  3. aphrodite on September 19th, 2012 3:41 pm

    This is beautifully written, Linda. Thanks.

  4. Jessica on September 19th, 2012 3:41 pm

    This is a little bit eye-opening. I don’t mind the weeping over little things, etc. but I think dad’s side of the family does and they may try to rush him into being a man. There should be such a rush to make them grown up so fast. It happens so quickly anyways.

  5. Penne on September 19th, 2012 3:42 pm

    I know the feeling, because it just happened, just now. Wow. I have a 15 year old who passed me in height years ago…and I see him being responsible and smart and still a sweet little boy inside and all I can think is how the days are ticking ticking ticking and soon he won’t live with us anymore and I want to kick myself for ever wishing he’d be able to buckle his own seat belt or fall asleep without me tickling his back. Everything I rushed him to be.

  6. Leah on September 19th, 2012 3:53 pm

    Dude, Randy, that’s like the third skeevy comment. Sheesh.

  7. JudithNYC on September 19th, 2012 3:59 pm

    Beautiful!

  8. Randy on September 19th, 2012 4:01 pm

    Leah, never my intent!

  9. Trish on September 19th, 2012 4:01 pm

    Wow, thank you. Reading this makes my heart hurt.

  10. Mariya on September 19th, 2012 4:03 pm

    I hear ya sister!

    My son is only turning 2 in a little over two weeks and I worry about feeling this way all the time.

    I love who he is now so much that hope I don’t see that person fade away (even a little bit) and even though I try to do as much as possible to keep all his sweet little quirks present in him, I worry I rush him too much to be a “big boy.”

    When he had yet to meet the world he would get fidgety when I would move into a position that changed his – reclining with his hands behind his head,legs stretched out and ankles crossed. He is still exactly like that.

    So bittersweet it is…sweet because you know you’ve raised a good human being and bitter because your baby is now a little boy

  11. Jane K on September 19th, 2012 4:10 pm

    So beautifully written — I have tears in my eyes as I look at my baby boy now an inch taller than me – at 14. Like to think I didn’t rush it but know deep down I did.

  12. twisterfish on September 19th, 2012 4:22 pm

    Beautiful post.
    My oldest son is 20 and I have tears in my eyes, thinking of him as I read this. With my youngest son, now 6, I’m doing my best not to rush him. It will happen fast enough. Too fast for this momma.

  13. Shannon on September 19th, 2012 4:28 pm

    Wow. That just made me tear up….you are right..too often we rush them…and then you look back and wonder where the time went…sometimes I find myself thinking “I can’t wait until they (insert skill)” and then I try to remind myself not to wish my life (and theirs) away….its not easy to do when you are tying soccer cleats or picking up cereal bowls for the eight millionth time…but its a reminder we all need from time to time…so thank you for that…

  14. agirlandaboy on September 19th, 2012 4:34 pm

    A good/bad week for me to read this. I am feeling all the feelings! (And maybe crying a little.)

  15. Gigi on September 19th, 2012 4:39 pm

    Those words brought tears to my eyes! My boy will be turning 18 in less than a month and is off at college now. Though I can still see glimpses of the little guy he once was it amazes me to see the man that he has become. All while I blinked, apparently. It goes so fast.

  16. Sarah on September 19th, 2012 4:47 pm

    Wow, that was beautifully written. I have had all of those same feelings so much lately- my almost 3 year old just started at a preschool, he’s never been away from home much. And I kept thinking “I hope the world finds him as sweet and funny as I do” and worrying about all the little habits he has that other people might find annoying, not endearing. And then I keep thinking of all the ways that this is going to be SO great for his independence and socialization and he maybe won’t be so shy anymore and will maybe not be afraid to be away from us anymore….and then I want to cry thinking about a time when those things may not be true.

  17. Jen on September 19th, 2012 4:55 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes too. I was hard on my little girl tonight while she was getting her pajamas on, and I had to stop to remind myself that she is just SO little. I know how badly I’m going to miss this time someday.

    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Christine on September 19th, 2012 5:08 pm

    Stoppit, you’re going to make me want another baby.

  19. Erica on September 19th, 2012 5:12 pm

    I’m sitting in a hotel room, hours from home and exhausted from a long day of driving and exploring, watching my 13 year old daughter spin and spin in the desk chair across the room. I was about to fuss at her, tell her to be still, act her age, but, no. Let her spin, let her make herself dizzy until she falls over in giggles. Let her be my little girl a little longer. Thank you for the reminder.

  20. JB on September 19th, 2012 5:13 pm

    Wow, Linda. You always manage to touch a nerve. Thank you.

  21. Beth on September 19th, 2012 5:16 pm

    I’ve been reading you for years now, way before I had a little guy of my own, who is also quite a softy. I have another one the way and I’m not sure if it’s a boy or a girl, but you make me love the idea of being a mom to boys. I’ve loved your honesty, humor, and most of all watching your boys grow from afar. This passage is perfect and my heart grew heavy b/c I know that this will be true even though my guy is only 2. Thank you for sharing your life and family with people like me.

  22. Lindsey on September 19th, 2012 5:27 pm

    Tears running down my face. I finally stopped rushing them and it’s already so late. xoxo

  23. Donna on September 19th, 2012 5:54 pm

    My baby boy is 32 this year, falling in love again, and it will kill us both if it doesn’t work out. He’ll come to me, that same little boy that you’re raising now. They never, especially boys, grow up so much that you won’t be able to see that little boy still. Don’t worry, he’ll always be there.

  24. Robbie on September 19th, 2012 6:32 pm

    Oh god, you guys are KILLING me – and I already have a sinus headache. My son just turned 10 (10!) – it’s ridiculous, and he is on the cusp, and I want him to get older, but BUT…. Basically, everything you said made me cry, That was beautiful – you are talented. The air just got heavy over here.

  25. Cassidy on September 19th, 2012 6:34 pm

    love this.

  26. Tina G on September 19th, 2012 6:37 pm

    I have a 23 year old son, so the author’s words ring very true for me. Although I try very hard not to rush my still little girl (9 years old), she is growing up and will soon vanish, too.

  27. girlofsteele on September 19th, 2012 7:17 pm

    Both you and the quote leave that feeling you speak of. Without children of my own, I do still have a similar feeling as I watch the elementary students I teach gain independence and move on from their primary years. Thank you for this post.

  28. Kim on September 19th, 2012 7:57 pm

    Is someone cutting onions in here? Maybe just my allergies flared up all of a sudden.

  29. Melissa on September 19th, 2012 8:04 pm

    While making dinner tonight I asked my 12 year old son to do something and he responded with that annoying teenagery sigh/grunt and I snapped at him to quit acting like a baby and be a grown up. I need to remember it’s not time for him to be a grown up yet!

  30. Lauren on September 19th, 2012 8:58 pm

    Wow, I am definitely teary eyed after reading that. As emotional as that made me, it’s a good reminder not to rush thing with my 14 month old. Thanks for that.

  31. Kimberley on September 19th, 2012 11:23 pm

    I read that passage and the air whooshed out of me. Thank you for a beautiful post.

  32. Jillian on September 19th, 2012 11:57 pm

    Wow – wasn’t expecting tears with my morning coffee. My “baby” is turning four next week and your post completely echos what I’ve been feeling.

    Thank you. I really needed that put into words. No more rushing for me.

  33. Rachel on September 20th, 2012 12:13 am

    My squeaky, anxious, wonder-filled boy is now confident and deep-voiced and sixteen. He towers over me, a head taller than his tall mom. He drove me home from work the other evening. And now you come along and do this and I don’t know WHEN I’ll stop sniffling and feeling all choky in my throat, and it’s clearly all your fault. (Your description of the tangible air in those intense moments is exactly apropos and I can tell that it is because you just gave me one.)

  34. Joyce on September 20th, 2012 1:56 am

    Such a beautiful quote, thank you for sharing, I really needed to read it today (I’m also in tears over my coffee). It’s so hard not to rush this time when they are 4 and screaming and knocking things/little brothers over all the time and waking you up at 5:30 and and and… but then they giggle and grab hands and forgive so easily and their faces shine with hope and love and innocence. Motherhood is so heartbreaking.

  35. Diane on September 20th, 2012 3:13 am

    Linda, you are such a wise, wonderful mother. I wish you had been around when I was a young mom. I’m now a grandmother and your insight just amazes me, as well as your appreciation of each milestone. Every child should be as lucky as your sons are…

  36. M on September 20th, 2012 3:39 am

    “Do you know how sometimes you read something, and it’s like the air in the room grows heavy? Like something you can touch, like you’re held fast by the words.”

    “But oh, he can be as tender as the milky base of a grass stem.”

    Yep.

  37. Anonymous on September 20th, 2012 4:42 am

    I don’t know….my 15 y/o son noticed last night that he’s a full head taller than me. And NOW is when I want to freeze him forever. He’s such a man-boy these days…I see and hear a man, but the flashes of impish boy are still bright. I ENJOY him so much more now that he’s fairly self-sufficient and capable. I can see the cute little guy he was in pictures but I wouldn’t go trade with these lovely days of high school.

  38. Cristi on September 20th, 2012 5:04 am

    I see this happening. Happening with my own 6 year old son. He has moments of pure child and they are becoming ever more interspersed with glimpses of the man he will become. He has turned from a toddler with a seemingly endless supply of tantrums into a boy. A boy that playfully stomps around and digs in the dirt one minute and then turns around to gently help his little sister up a hill. He is an amazing child and I’m afraid of the day that child has vanished into the ether.

  39. April on September 20th, 2012 5:32 am

    So sweet! My four year old still likes to hug and kiss his friends, and I can see the uncomfortable ness on their face but I can’t bear for him to stop.

  40. Emma on September 20th, 2012 5:44 am

    Linda, your words just had the same effect on me that Rick Bragg’s had on you. The air in my office is now heavy because of this post. Now I want to rush the day of work so that I can get home and not rush my boys to grow up. Thank you.

  41. Beth on September 20th, 2012 5:51 am

    Wow – that quote brought tears to my eyes. I’m the mom of an almost 4 year old boy. Thanks for sharing this and for your words.

  42. Mel on September 20th, 2012 5:53 am

    I feel the same way about my 16 year old man/child. I watch my 4 year and want to shake my fists at the sky and yell, “Make time stop.” Because I know it is inevitable for him as well and all children. Beautifully written as always.

  43. natalie on September 20th, 2012 6:38 am

    This is amazing, and true, and heartbreaking. I hear myself doing this all the time: “You’re a big kid! You can do this yourself!” And then… she can do it herself. And she won’t ask me to help anymore, and it will break my heart.

  44. Melissa A. on September 20th, 2012 6:51 am

    I want to run to my son’s school right now and give him a hug.

    He will go up to any child and start playing with them, and I have worried that someday someone will be rude to him and not let him play. I tell myself it’s ridiculous to worry and when it happens he’ll deal with it just fine. Glad to know I’m not the only one with that kinds of worries though.

  45. MyFrogs on September 20th, 2012 6:59 am

    I struggle with this with my girls (12, 13). I want them to be responsible but not grow up yet. I had them at 20 and 21, and for them I want them to spend their 20’s exploring and seeing everything they can in this world. And then worry about boys. I want them be the age they are and just enjoy it. I don’t want to rush them either.

  46. MelV on September 20th, 2012 7:11 am

    OH the posts like this! You always go right for the heart on these. Im having a hard enough time not just up and quitting my job so I can be a part of every minute they still let me be in (not that quitting is an option). It is happening so fast but I keep telling myself that at least i realize it now while he’s 7 and not when he’s 27.
    Becuase yes, he is fast becoming “everything Ive rushed him to be”

  47. Burch on September 20th, 2012 8:24 am

    I’ve been a reader and fan of yours for several years….but never a commenter. Rick Bragg compels me to do otherwise. He’s my absolute favorite. As a mother of two young boys and one who dreams of moving to a simpler, more beautiful hometown and lifestyle, I’m cheering for your family every step of the way.

  48. Jill Browning on September 20th, 2012 8:39 am

    Bless his little, pea-pickin’ heart…! I hope he never loses that thing that makes him want to hold girls’ hands. You’re doing something right, Mama. ;)

  49. Becky on September 20th, 2012 8:43 am

    Ok so now I’m crying at work. My son is 14 now, talking about getting a job and a motorcycle and college and … girlfriends. He will be gone living his own life soon and I will be seriously missing the 4 year old that wouldn’t get off my lap.

  50. Em on September 20th, 2012 10:46 am

    My 5 year old cries every day entering kindergarten. I keep telling his dad someday he’ll be a man, right? He’ll have stubble and swagger and he won’t hang onto my leg forever. And as much as I want him to happily skip into school, I don’t want to rush the time when HE couldn’t let go of ME.

  51. Maggie on September 20th, 2012 10:48 am

    Shit, tearing up at the office because we are so close to the edge with my oldest. He is 9.5 and already the little boy has mostly gone. He won’t hold my hand (or really anyone’s hand), he acts tough if he hurts himself in front of his friends, he is independent. But, he still wants me to lie in bed with him for a few minutes at night, he sits near me on the couch when we read, he is tender with his 3 YO sister. My heart is already breaking for the time in the near future when he won’t want these things. Damn, I want my kids to be independent and grow up but mourn what is lost at the same time.

  52. Jennie on September 20th, 2012 10:50 am

    I don’t look to be alone, crying at work as I am. We are only having one child (at least I think) and I keep thinking, but wait, we have to have a dozen kids so they never grow up. Then I remember that they would all grow up. They always grow up.

    Stupid fucking time.

  53. H on September 20th, 2012 10:53 am

    My baby boy was home last night for a brief meal. He’s 24 and has a “real job” now. I miss him so much and I wish I’d had more patience with him during the challenging times (there were plenty) and I wish I had focused more intently on the fun times. I know the struggles of moms during the years the kids are young, but I do wish we all had a flash-forward opportunity to see a day when they’re grown so we’re more driven to focus on enjoying our children when they’re young.

  54. Rebecca (Bearca) on September 20th, 2012 10:59 am

    I also have a 7-year old, and I cried at this. Wow.

  55. kristin on September 20th, 2012 11:32 am

    That confusing woosh/big-little age lasts SO FREAKING LONG.

  56. Amanda Brown on September 20th, 2012 11:47 am

    Goosebumps all over from this and tears pricking the backs of my eyes. Wow.

  57. sal on September 20th, 2012 12:15 pm

    Heavy air up in here, no doubt. Wow.

  58. Redbecca on September 20th, 2012 12:31 pm

    Beautiful, Linda, as always. Mine is in the midst of a developmental skydive (it’s too big to call it a “leap”) and see the toddler in him disappearing daily. Thank you for the reminder that while I’m excited to see him reach new heights, I should savor the young innocence he still has.

  59. simon on September 20th, 2012 12:39 pm

    Wombat wanted a pink watch instead of a blue one, and this post’s take-home message is exactly why I bought it for him.

    In my brain, I thought: “Wanna wear pink? Go ahead, wear pink. Someday the other boys will make fun of you, and you’ll stop. Until then, have at it, kid. Be happy.”

  60. rebecca on September 20th, 2012 1:32 pm

    Well thanks, I’m crying at work now.

  61. Emily on September 20th, 2012 1:46 pm

    Yeah, stop making me CRY, Linda. Rick Bragg too. Stupid, wonderful, absofuckinglutely right Rick Bragg.

  62. Kris on September 20th, 2012 2:32 pm

    Oh, that piece from The Prince of Frogtown has me unabashedly weeping.

  63. Amy N on September 20th, 2012 3:17 pm

    Yikes…I need to get that book. My 10 yo son is about an inch and a half from looking me in the eye. Some days he still needs his mama…and others he is filled with confidence and big ideas and so not my little baby anymore. I can’t wait to see all that he becomes, but I also want to freeze time and enjoy everything in this moment, not let him get any bigger.

  64. jen on September 20th, 2012 5:49 pm

    So touching and beautiful. This is going to stick with me for a long while as I parent my girls.

  65. Maura on September 20th, 2012 6:04 pm

    Formed a lump right in my throat. My two boys are 18 and 19. They are everything I rushed them to be.

    It seems so endlessly slow in the beginging…and then in an instance it goes at lightening speed and you yearn just to slow it down.

    Beautifully written Linda.

  66. Mindy on September 20th, 2012 6:39 pm

    Thank you. Please keep your life changing, eye opening, stop you and shake you posts coming.

  67. NancyJ on September 20th, 2012 6:46 pm

    My son turned 22 in July and I can’t believe he is the same baby, the same little boy.
    “he faded away” – he did. His face is thinner, his smile is bigger, but his kisses are constant and his hugs and kindness have remained the same.
    I can’t see that little boy in his face anymore but I know it’s still him.

  68. Ali V on September 20th, 2012 7:24 pm

    Beautiful. I teared up and my little boy is only 6 months. And where did those months go? They disappeared somewhere between my complaining about lack of sleep. God.

    You’re really an excellent writer Linda – such a gift for analogy and description. That last paragraph killed me.

  69. Joel on September 21st, 2012 2:33 am

    As a 28 year old boy who was (I think) a lot like Riley when I was younger… I don’t know exactly where I was going with this.

    But I just emailed a link to this article to my own mama, because I wanted her to know that I’m still her little boy. And always will be. Trust and believe that someday, when they’re past the teenage years, they’ll “get it.” Every moment you agonized over swimming lessons or holding hands, they’ll appreciate. I know I do with my parents.

  70. ememby on September 21st, 2012 6:10 am

    Seriously – so good – so perfectly capturing what it is to raise a kid and push them and suddenly realize they are there and feel that heartbreak (and still the accomplishment) all at the same time. Saved it in my feed reader just so I could come comment this morning. Loved it.

  71. Recommended Reading | ememby on September 21st, 2012 7:03 am

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  72. threewildthings on September 21st, 2012 9:52 am

    How sweet is @Joel’s comment above? Awww.

    Beautiful post. You nailed raising boys perfectly (or kids, for that matter). That passage from the author about his step-son made me all weepy. Especially since the eldest of my three sons turned seven today and I wrote about him this morning and I got all reflective. It made me realize seven is such an awkward, in between age. Part little boy, part big boy. It must be tough for them to straddle two worlds like that, with the weight of everyone’s expectations on their shoulders.

    Thank you for this. Your post is a great reminder to let them stay little as long as they can. To just let them be boys, until they aren’t anymore.

  73. Lori on September 21st, 2012 11:34 am

    This made me cry! I feel ya, sister.

  74. Lisa on September 21st, 2012 5:57 pm

    Ugh, that made me cry. Mine little boy is 14 and I just want time to stop. Thank you for sharing.

  75. Amalah on September 21st, 2012 8:53 pm

    The air got so heavy when I read that quote that I literally could not breathe there, for a minute. Whoa.

    Slow down, self, you fucking asshole. Enjoy them! God.

  76. Katie on September 22nd, 2012 5:25 pm

    Tears…and my little girl is only 1.5…

  77. Nikki on September 23rd, 2012 9:51 am

    Linda…OmG, I’m bawling. This just slammed me..my sons are 18, 16 and 15 now and I swear that’s exactly how it happened. I hope you don’t mind if I link this on my FB?

  78. Olivia on September 23rd, 2012 10:09 am

    Damn it, now I’m crying. I tell my girl to chill out a lot when she’s crying over nothing (to me). Then I try to remember she’s 3 and everything is a BIG thing to her.

  79. MEP on September 24th, 2012 10:28 am

    It’s so true, my baby is ten now and sometimes, it seems to me, practically a grown woman. I wish I hadn’t hurried her so much either, especially since the growth required to get her there comes from heartaches, disappointments, mean words, and thoughtless actions we wish we could protect her from, as much as the joys and accomplishments.

  80. jodie on September 24th, 2012 7:07 pm

    Ahhh Joel’s comment made me cry even more than I already was.

  81. Rosie on September 24th, 2012 8:03 pm

    I keep coming back to this. Linda – thank you. I have said “yes” to the goofiness, random requests, and messes more these last few weeks because of this. I keep thinking – someday I WILL miss this (10,7,3). Thank you.

  82. Mary Clare on September 25th, 2012 9:10 am

    Such a condundrum, parenting is. We want to cherish our babies and hold those chubby hands. Yet, the needs for those wonderful kids life expand and take up all of a parent’s resources. And by growing up they give us a bit of our space and time again. And then our lives feel empty without them.

  83. Tammy on September 25th, 2012 1:54 pm

    “Show me the boy of seven, and I will show you the man”

    I think it’s safe to say he’s gonna be an awesome man.

  84. Staci on September 26th, 2012 9:06 am

    I have daughters, not sons… and still this brought tears to my eyes.

  85. Time Flies | whoorl on September 26th, 2012 11:31 am

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  86. Heather M. on September 30th, 2012 1:28 am

    This is my favorite Linda writing. The excerpt brought more than a few tears to my eyes (which now have to look up to look at Zac). Thanks for sharing.

  87. Alison on October 1st, 2012 1:33 pm

    Led here by Five Star Friday.

    Such a beautifully written piece. My son is nearly 13. I see glimpses of the man he is becoming and wonder where the little boy has gone. Then he goofs around or, like someone said above,wants to sit together on the sofa and he’s little again.

  88. Crystal on October 1st, 2012 5:00 pm

    Awwwww! This is such a wonderful piece! While it is exciting to see them grow, it is also bittersweet. I wish they would stay little longer. If only we could bottle the babyness. :)

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