The Other Side of Childhood

I could always count on his chubby cheeks, and the sweet pudge beneath his t-shirt. My baby, my youngest.

And then, one morning, he was all bones and muscle, his jeans barely resting on his hipbones. His face thinned out, and the last, fleeting whisper of baby was gone.

He reads–now in two languages. He gets grades, and loses teeth, rides a bike, and plays Minecraft. And yet I held onto the fiction of my youngest, the idea of him.

But the reality is, we aren’t there anymore.

We are on the other side of childhood, which has many perks–they sleep in, pour their own bowls of cereal, and Thomas the Tank Engine is not a part of my life.

They resist hugs, or mumble instead of looking you in the eye. They are rough, call each other names occasionally, and talk much more loudly than necessary.

And therein lies the grace. Loving my children is a choice. And here, on this other side of childhood, the people are there. The running coach who looks my oldest in the eye, and makes a point of inviting him to events. The mothers and friends who talk me down in my frustrations, “Cosas de ninos,” they say, “Normal. No pasa nada.” 

The teachers who force them to be better than they appear, and the mothers who ask them questions, and listen to their responses.

I appreciate their love because it comes a little less naturally. They see the men they will be, and the babies they were.

And I love them for it.

3 thoughts on “The Other Side of Childhood

  1. I’m right there with you with Joseph. On the first day of school, I watched him have conversations with adults – not the cute little conversations adults have with children, but talk between people who really cared about his opinions and responses, who weren’t patronizing. I saw his shoulders back in the relaxed posture of his father, his thumb casually hooked on his pocket, and I saw the man he’ll be more clearly than when I realized his shoes now fit me and I can wear his sweatshirts.

  2. I’m going to cry. This is where I am with Matthew and James is entering the thinning out stage (and is it awful that I am kind of loving the slight maturity delays that keep him a little more baby than boy still?). Even with the younger ones still firmly tucked into baby/toddlerhood I’m feeling the time slipping through my fingers. Matthew was a baby much longer than Quin. Too fast. Too fast…
    I never thought I would be the parent who has trouble with her kids growing up, growing away.

  3. My son (Christopher) is now 30 and I still see him sometimes as the little chubby boy he used to be, it takes me back before the growing and thinning. So we as mothers’ of boys will always see them in both places. The little boy, the men they will and have grown to be!

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