Some random kid I barely recognized came knocking at the door tonight.
"What time is Thing 1 going to the game?" he wanted to know.
"IDK," I said in real words. "Let me go get him."
As it's happening all over the United States lately, so it happens in Wake Forest - football season is here. Our son is a junior, and this year friends are coming by wanting him to go to the game. Friends are, apparently, also waiting for him to come to the game. Some of them with grills and tailgating plans. His friend are legion, it seems.
Oh dear - Friends are becoming his world.
Oh dear - He's not just 'mine' anymore. Pause for breath. Square shoulders. Move ahead.
As a parent will, I gave him and his neighborhood buddy a lift to the game, telling them to call me when they were ready to come home. They slid out of the van with 20 bucks in their pockets and a night full of possibility. Freedom. No parents, no siblings, no agenda. FREEDOM.
His lanky frame was quick to disappear into the crowds, but I had only the merest smidge of time to watch him go, the traffic was circling like a pack of hungry sharks and I needed to get going home. One, two, three, they're gone. Four, five, six, you wonder how this day came so fast, when they're now as old as I was when I thought I pretty much Had It All Figured Out. It doesn't take too many years for someone to go from helpless baby to strolling confident teenager, and seven eight, nine, you're getting closer every day to them flying the coop.
By 10, as it happened, I got the text - 'we're ready to be picked up.'
Bus loop, it's dark. Two tall young men side-by-side make an 11 in the shadows, gangly and lean. They slide into the work truck, we bump on home, dropping the friend off at his house a block away (I can walk from your house to mine; he said, but THIS mama bear won't have that, not while he's with ME). Once home, Thing 1, my gorgeous baby, dived into the leftover pizza, escaped to his room to play something online with people he's probably never met, and left his mama to wonder how he got this far, so fast.
A dozen years ago he was my baby, a snug towheaded bug in footie pajamas. A dozen years from now he'll be an adult, on his own, probably married. Watching him, and helping him, make those slow moves away from us and 'home' is the most excruciating work I've ever had to do as a parent.
I miss my baby boy sometimes, but I would never hold him back from his new work of becoming a man. Each time he comes home, having put a little more distance between us, I know he's doing what has to be done. He's growing up.
And I almost can't stand it.
Parenthood. It's not for sissies.