It just snuck up on me. I was sitting on his bed, talking to him about the night that he was born, how the doctors tried to stop him from coming so early and how his daddy was in the shower when I yelled for him to hurry up.
He heard about how I became violently ill on fruit loops that I just ‘had to have’ after 15 hours of labor or how I told Mickey that I thought I was dying when I realized too late that an epidural would have been helpful (to say the least!)
I saw the look of interest in his eyes as I ran through the story of his birth like I do every year on his birthday. As I sat there, telling him stories of so many years ago, it dawned on me: This child is my friend.
It wasn’t always this way. I had never planned on being his friend when he was only a pre-teen, just on the cusp of becoming a teenager. I had hoped that it would happen one day, but I thought maybe 18, 19 or 20 would be the magic age.
I realized that right now he was becoming the kind of person that I WANTED to hang out with… yes, my son, but also my friend. The kind of person I enjoyed hanging out with, but still the kind of child that I can teach and guide.
I see that it was all worth it.
- All of the “Did you do your chores?”
- All of the “Did you put your sweatpants away?”
- All of the “Don’t talk back to me.”
- All of the “Did you finish your dinner? You can’t have a snack if that’s all you’ve eaten.”
- All of the “Give me a hug before you leave”
- I no longer have to cut his meat at the dinner table.
- I don’t have to remind him to buckle up.
- I don’t have to ask him to clean up after himself.
- I can know that he will get himself ready in the mornings.
- I rest assured that when he is thirsty, he will drink. When he gets hungry, he will ask for a snack. When he is tired, he will rest. I don’t have to ask him every hour anymore.
- I rarely hear him yelling my name constantly because he has finally learned the art of patience.
- He is at that age where I no longer get into back and forth power struggles/arguments with him.
- He is at the age where he does what I ask because he can see how it helps me. If he forgets, he feels bad about it (so yay for a good conscience).
- He is at the age where he is responsible, without reminders.
- He is at the age where he is FUN to hang out with… we can talk like friends, but he still asks for advice and listens when I give it to him even if he didn’t ask.
- He is helpful.
- He is kind.
- He is funny!
- He still wants to cuddle up with his mom and a good book every night.
I see it and everyone was right on the money when they said the days are slow, but the years fly by. It did. I reminded him of the night that he was born and couldn’t believe that those years just flew past me without me even realizing it.
Our son is finally at that magic age where it has all paid off. He is at the age where I think our kids go from just kids to people you’d hang out with.
I remember one time when my brother, Tim (a high school principal), and I (a former teacher) were having a conversation about raising kids when he said “I’m not raising my kids to be my friend now. I’m raising them to be the kind of person I want to hang out with when they are adults.”
We both kept on that path, raising our kids to be the kind of people we would be proud to hang out with and now, two years later… it is paying off.
Yes, these are my children… and they are the becoming the kind of people that I want to hang out with:
Yes, we are their parents first, but if we put that effort in, it is going to pay off… and I’m beginning to see it.
All of it was worth it. It’s funny, but we hear it all the time: “sow the seeds & reap the benefits” or “… well, I am here to tell you that it is true. I’m sure the age will be different for each of our kids, but I am going to enjoy this age for as long as I can.
I suppose I know that those ‘dreaded teenage years’ are coming, that this age will be gone as quickly as it came. That’s OK because I don’t fear them… we will navigate those waters as a family, as we do with everything else.
With any luck (and a lot of leading), these pre-teen years will be the beginning of some of our best years together. It has a purpose, this age. It is the transition to something new for us. Something even better… I look forward to having these new relationships with all of our kids.
I wish life could slow down a little… but he has so much to do and he can’t wait to get there. As one of my favorite songs by Nichole Nordeman says:
“I pointed to the sky and now you wanna fly
I am your biggest fan
I hope you know I am
But do you think you can somehow
Last week we went to the gym together (apparently, being a pre-teen puts you at that magical age where kids are allowed to work out in the gym, too.) We ran the indoor track together while he whizzed around like nothing and I clumsily tried to keep up.
We will keep on running as he says things like “Come on, Mom… sprint the last lap. You can do it.” (and then he laughs as he flies by me, leaving me in his dust, but he always runs back to me to encourage me to finish the lap… that’s the kind of kid I can be proud of.
That’s the kind of friend I want to have.)
He will still make mistakes, but the good part is that when he falls, no matter what the age, I’ll always be close by to catch him.