My son is at a crossroads.
He is at that age where some days he’s my little boy and other days he’s a big kid, trying to spread his wings. He will still hold my hand in public come to me for hugs and kisses, but he’s also growing up.
He plays sports and collects baseball cards. He doesn’t need me to read to him anymore because he can read almost everything on his own now. He doesn’t share much about what goes on in his head. He’s often out of the house, playing with the boys in the neighborhood. He’s changing before my very eyes.
The line is not a solid one. Every day is different. He is sweet and talkative one moment and stoic and indifferent the next. The mommy in me wants to protect him from growing up, to shelter him from the physical and emotional pain that he will have to face. But the mother in me knows I can’t do that, so I have to do my best to equip him to handle the big bad world on his own.
On our street, there are six school-age boys that all ride the bus together. The three older boys hang out together, and the three younger boys hang out together. My son is one of the younger ones.
The older boys aren’t always so nice. One in particular seems to give D a hard time. I have had conversations with him about trying to get along with these boys but not encouraging friendships with them either. In the summer, when the dads are around in the evenings, they will often play pick-up games of baseball or football, and the boys all mingle, and it usually works out okay because the dads are around to supervise. But I do not invite the older boys to our house to play, and I don’t encourage D to go to their houses. My mommy intuition just tells me not to leave them alone together.
Last week, we were filling out Valentines Day cards, which, as every mommy knows, is a drama unto itself.
D wrote up all the valentines for his classmates. Then he started going through the leftover valentines. He wrote one up for each of the neighborhood boys that are his age. And then he went on to write up valentines for the three older boys.
When I realized that he was planning to give them out to these bigger kids, I could envision the scene. I knew it was a disaster in the making. My son, still innocent enough to want to give valentines to all his friends, didn’t know that they may not be received graciously, that he would probably appear babyish and immature in front of the boys he wants so badly to please. I could only imagine their reaction at my little boy handing them each a valentine.
Maybe it would have been okay. I can’t know for sure, but I didn’t want to take the chance. I have already seen my son’s feelings hurt at the hands of these kids. I took a look at the guileless face of my little guy, so innocent about the target he was making of himself in the hands of the older, more cynical kids. And I knew I had to tell him that he could not give those valentines to those bigger boys.
I gently explained the situation. I could see him processing what I was telling him. He understood, and he trusted my instincts. He didn’t want to give the big boys any reason to make fun of him, of course, so we put those valentines aside, and he went outside to play.
I sat there for a few minutes, pondering how I got to this place so fast, mom to a kid in elementary school. It was so much easier when a kiss would make a boo-boo better. It won’t be long until I won’t be able to fix his hurts or prevent his heartache. This time, I was able to protect him from getting his feelings hurt. I won’t always be able to shield him from potential disappointment and pain, but this time I could.