It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.
Pardon my emotion...it's a big weekend.
The trouble with sons is they trick you. From the day they are born, they mess with your heart and you don’t see it coming. Not at three days old. Not at age four. Not at 18 or even 25. You think you’ve got a handle on mothering a boy, and then they do something else that knocks you to your knees and takes your breath away. You celebrate them and grieve them all in one small, life-changing moment. Then another. And another.
It starts in the hospital when the nurse brings them to you in the middle of the night and says, “He’s pretty fussy. I think he needs his mama.” It finally hits you that you are their person. Entrusted with their very life, you feel the joy and weight of what it means to raise a son. As much as you hate the all-nighters rocking and begging them to go to sleep, you also take great pride in the fact that it’s you they want. The trouble is, a few weeks down the road they prove to you they can do the whole sleep-8-hours just fine and they don’t need rocking anymore. You’re grateful. But you miss those dark, quiet hours just the same. It’s the first trick. Their independence is slowly and sneakily revealing itself.
A few months go by and that chubby hand grips your little finger so tightly that he fools you into thinking he’ll never let go. And then he does. And he walks. But he also falls and looks up at you with sweet, tear-filled eyes that make you believe you’re the only one capable of picking him back up and encouraging him to try again. So you do. Then a day comes when he takes off running and doesn’t look back. Even when he falls, his “I-can-do-it” spirit takes over and he leaves you in his dust. Darn it. You thought he needed you more. But you cheer him on. And you cry.
Year after year, the milestones come and go, and inevitably you feel duped. People warn you, but you still don’t recognize the sleight-of-hand at the piano recitals, little league games, high school proms, graduations, or their first apartments. It really is magic, watching them unveil their newest trick, and yet sometimes you’re left feeling like the woman sawn in two. Except you never get put back together.
Little by little, those tricksters learn to bear the weight of their own life. You pray it’s because you laid some kind of foundation for that to happen, but you can’t be sure because sons don’t always tell you that’s part of the reason. Oh, but when they do, when they say “thank you” or “love you, Mom”, suddenly every little conniving thing they’ve ever done is forgiven.
Big trouble comes when you hear the words, “I have a date.” It’s too much. You fight to stay calm, hoping this is just an illusion. There’s no way snips, snails and puppy dog tails have turned into mini-golf, movies and goodnight kisses. Then you meet her. And you genuinely like her. And you know why he loves her. Why he wants to marry her. And you love her too. She is the answer to prayers you’ve prayed since before he was born, but she is now part of the trick too. He has enlisted help in his mischievous ways and you think it might just put you over the edge. So you resign yourself to hoping that one day they’ll experience the kind of trouble you’ve faced and that lifts your spirits, because, well, “Grandma” sounds pretty good.
The truth is, mothering a son has given some you of the greatest joy you will ever know. And while some of their growing-up tricks may have stung a bit, with every trick they’ve played on you, you’ve come to love them more. No, that little, baby-blue bundle they placed in your arms didn’t stay little. And that’s the real trouble with sons. They grow up.
We cradle our boys, then we steady them, and then we cheer them on. We celebrate the adventures and grieve the losses, sometimes both in a single moment. Along the way, we might have to bear the brunt of life’s cruelest tricks, but without question I’ve never been happier to play the fool.