As August 3rd changed to August 4th, I woke from a deep sleep.
I wake often in the middle of the night. Perhaps I have some sort of undiagnosed sleep disorder. Or perhaps I have an unusually busy mind that just won’t shut off, even in the deepest of sleep. Most often when I wake in the mid of night, I think of all the things I need to do, worry about all the things left undone, worry about you and your sisters and knock myself over the head for how I did this wrong and that wrong and everything in my life wrong. Night can be dark, you know.
But this night, this 3:00 a.m. waking, you and you alone came to mind. I don’t know why. I’m not sure why. But it was all about you, son.
Tears welled and fell from my eyes the second I started thinking about you, the second I really started thinking about you.
I’m no dummy.
Half your best friends are half-men already. I’ve seen it happen for months now, this changing from boy to man. I didn’t expect to go through this. I didn’t want to go through this. I didn’t realize that being a parent meant I’d have to watch my baby boy turn into a MAN. Seriously. What is this? I always wanted children for the adults they’d become, but I guess I was clueless about how that transformation was going to happen. Maybe I thought my kids would skip right over that boy to man and girl to woman phase?
But ready or not, it’s happening. Boys have been turning into men right in front of my eyes for months now. Your friends, for goodness sakes! The ones you played t-ball with and Saturday morning basketball with and went bowling with for your 6th and 9th birthday parties! Connor. Logan. Levi. Ryan. Cole. All your friends! They’re all turning into men! Can you please stop it?! Because I’m not ready. I’m not ready for Connor and Logan, Levi and Ryan and Cole to turn into men. I’m not ready for Ben or Mike or Dillon or any of those dudes to turn into men. And I’m most certainly not ready for YOU to turn into a man.
Boy, oh boy.
Man, oh man.
So yeah. I could barely stand it, that night I woke in the middle of the night. The tears wouldn’t stop streaming. I couldn’t get over the fact that any day now, you’re going to turn into a man before my eyes. And I’ll never, ever get that boy back. You will forever be a man after that.
Okay. I know you’re SUPER rolling your eyes at me right now. You’re saying “Mom! You’re so weird!! Stop!” You’re pulling away. You’re far too big for this, right?
But I’m serious, son.
You’ll be a man any day now.
That day you got braces, August 25th, was much worse for me than I ever would have guessed, much more emotionally charged. I thought this was going to be standard operating procedure. Get braces on. Two weeks later, start seventh grade. Perfect timing. But it wasn’t quite as easy as that, at least for me.
In the weeks between that sleepless August 3rd to August 4th night, all the way up until you got those braces on August 25th, all I could keep thinking about was how my baby boy was going to turn into a man any day now, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.
They proved my point.
They solidified the deal.
There’s no turning back.
Two days before braces, I took pictures of you. Boy you. Cooper. My boy. I wanted to remember what you looked like as a boy, before braces, before you became a man.
I might never forget the day we walked into the orthodontist office to get those braces put on. I looked at you one last time, then walked behind you all the way into the waiting room. When they brought you back, I knew this was the last time, the last time I’d see you without braces in a long, long time, the last time I’d see you as a boy. When they take those braces off 24 months from now, you’ll be a full-fledged MAN. And that’s just sad and weird and crazy good and so hard to comprehend.
Those braces. They signaled manhood. They signaled me saying bye to my boy.
You’re in 7th grade now.
A couple days before school started you told me you were ready, that you’d adjusted to your braces and were ready to manage them at school. I agree. You’re ready. And capable. Of being and becoming a man.
Nothing about our journey as mom and son has been expected. I was absolutely clueless about motherhood before you. You broke the mold, son. And you broke it good. You continue to shock me everyday with your ways, with who you were and who you are and who you’re still becoming. Most of the time, I don’t understand you at all. Once in a while, I totally get you.
These are my prayers, son.
These are my wishes.
These are my hopes and dreams and words of wisdom for you in these last days before you become a MAN.
Don’t play too many video games.
Say thank you.
Don’t expect anything.
You don’t deserve anything.
Give your mom a hug. A nice long one.
And give your grandmas and sisters a hug, too.
Don’t worry about the ladies too soon.
They’ll fall all over you soon enough.
When it is time for the ladies? Honor. Respect. Love. And Care. Always.
Learn to be still.
Let faith work itself out in you. Please.
Wander a bit.
Do what you love.
Don’t do too much crazy stuff. Okay?
Don’t do stupid, dumb stuff either.
Will you please drive safe?
Discover your purpose.
Find your place.
Know your boundaries and keep them firm.
Watch the world around you.
Step outside of yourself.
Learn from those who have gone before you.
And rest well.
Give. Even if you don’t want to.
Serve. Even if you hate it.
Love and chill out when you’d rather lash out.
You can be anything you want to be and live anywhere you want to live when you grow up and move on out. As long as you’re safe and happy, developing and utilizing your God-given smarts and gifts to contribute to the betterment of people and this earth, I’ll be happy, I’ll be content.
But you must use your gifts. Don’t sit on your gifts.
And, yeah. In case I didn’t mention. Let faith work itself out in you, son.
Grow in wisdom.
But be open minded.
Don’t let money sway you.
Don’t let money entice.
Don’t let money come between you and yours.
Live simply so others can simply live.
Guard your heart.
And above all, son, believe. Believe there’s always a way. Believe there’s always hope. No matter what trials you face. No matter what turn the road takes.
Life is hard.
I won’t pretend it’s easy.
But it’s beautiful, son.
Take it in. Take it all in. SEE beyond the here and now.
So I’ll take it in. Take it all in. Then I’ll see beyond the moment, beyond the here and now, beyond the boy you’ve been. I’ll tuck all of you in my heart. All those memories – good, very good, bad, very bad. They make up you, all God created you to be, all God intends you to be.
I don’t know who you’ll be as a man.
But I do know who you’ve been as a boy.
I’m your mom.
I’ll forever be, whether you like it or not.
I was chosen to be the mom to shepherd you and care for you and love you all the blessed, long-way through. I honestly don’t know why me. Why me? For you? Only God knows.
Lord, help me raise you from the boy you’ve been, to the man you’re going to be.
For now, you’re still my boy. Your back and your cheeks are soft. Your voice is familiar. You don’t have too many hairs anywhere. And I still feel like a boy mom.
Soon, I’ll be a man-boy mom. Then, I’ll be a man mom.
I’m cool like that.
I always wanted to be a man mom anyway.
You were crabs as a baby anyway.
It’s all good.
This letter to my near 13-year-old son, Cooper, is first of a three-part letters series I’m writing to my children as we’re entering major transitions for each of them. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings before the moment passed. If you want to read my letter to my 10-year-old daughter, Elsa, click here. If you want to read my letter to my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Maisie, click here.