Thursday, March 27, 2014

You Had Me at Conception ~ My First Love is Officially a Teen!

Every Sunday at church, I can't help but glance down the pew, sometimes to see that the little ones are behaving, but most times to catch the precious profiles of 5 little (and big) boys lined up, cleaned and combed and squished together between their father and me. And, my eyes always linger a little longer on the tallest boy...
The boy who turned 13 on Monday. The boy who who is the reason I wear heels to Mass on Sunday. Heels to make me feel taller, the kind of tallness that makes me believe that I still have all the time in the world with him.  Heels to make him seem shorter, the kind of shorter that whispers to my heart, he still needs you, he really isn't so big yet.

I remember when Benedict was just a baby perched on my lap at church, drooling down teething toys and tossing every board book on the floor over and over again just to watch me pick them up. I looked down the pew back then too, and wondered what joy would come if one day God would fill up such an empty space.

And, oh, how quickly He has done this great thing in our lives. He has heard my heart, the place that speaks of a longing desire for lots of little ones to love. And, in His Mercy, He has allowed me to struggle through every weak moment of whining, of feeling overwhelmed, of wishing I could just sit alone for a moment at church, knowing such moments are only temporary, only human. He knows me, oh how he knows me, and I trust that.  And, He's not done filling us up with His love. Soon, we will scoot down and make room for one more sweet breath of that awesome love.
I wish, at times, that I could go back and savor just one day of Benedict sitting solo on my lap, just the two of us.  I wish I could retrace my footsteps and catch up to the girl who wasn't paying attention to time, and how easy it is to take it for granted. Stop worrying, stop fussing over things that don't matter, I would say to her. Sandwiches are okay tonight, dust and clutter can wait. Just be. Just be with him.

The Chesterton quote rings in my ears, Why be something to everyone when you can be everything to someone?" Thirteen years later, I'm still challenged by this truth.

Now, this teenage boy stands beside me at the stove.  I season soup and he talks track, explaining which events he wants to try this year. My heart pounds with pride when he says "I might try long distance." He speaks of one of my great joys, as if it might become one of his.

He doesn't know how hard I'm listening, enjoying every word, so content to know these plans, these ideas, these goals he's chosen to share.  Don't stop sharing. What you have to say is important to me. YOU are important to me.

I try to keep up with him, keep eye contact, hoping he doesn't intuit my attention slipping in and out of memories of when he was so much smaller and would stand close beside me, arms reaching up, eager to see and to know what what was happening in my world up high.  Soup stirred with one hand. Table set with one hand.  Life conducted with one hand. Hands give pause to hug with two.

Thank God I can still hug you.  Thank God you'll still let me!

When did he stop reaching? Stop needing to be buckled in, having his hair combed, shirt buttoned, tucked in at night, lifted up to shoot the basket?? Without being asked, he gave up his spot on my lap, in my arms, beside me at story time so that the younger one could have his turn. And then, the younger one gave up his spot for another, and so this is how the story of growing big goes.

You have led the way, you have set the example, you have shown them how this is done.
I would never interfere with your independence, or minimize how accomplished you are now, as a young man, just so that I can feel some sort of security of being needed, of believing that my time with you isn't running out, that my heels will always be high enough to preserve my current perspective.

No, as hard as it is, the apron strings have been loosed. Your dad has helped me with that - helped me let you live a little on your own. If anything, I probably expect to much of you, depend on your helping hand a bit too much, assume you should step in and know how to handle life on so many levels. And, I'm sorry, if my expectations are too high, we're growing together, aren't we?
There is great joy for your father and me to watch such an incredible soul grow into the man God is calling you to be, to be right beside you just where you are in life. But, as a mother, I confess to searching for and hoping to see glimpses of the boy in the man, and I can't help but miss your littleness very, very much.

Now, here we are! You're officially a teenager!
Benedict's birthday initiation into "teen land" began with paintball wars with his buddies from school and ended with a no-fuss, no decorations chocolate sheet cake (his request - I couldn't even get him to agree to sprinkles!), decked only with 13 annoying re-light candles (which the younger ones were happy to show off their lung capacity to help extinguish), home-made ice cream and heaps of razzing from his brothers....
Brothers who love and look up to him, who, every single day, count down the moments until he's home from school. Especially Charlie:
Charlie is the one who waits at the window for his biggest brother, who hasn't missed a day of greeting him with a great BIG, "Hi, Ben!! You're home!!"
Not a day goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am to be this boy's mama, to have the privilege of sharing another birthday with him, and to walk through all of the days between this birthday and the next with him.

Happy Birthday, Benedict!  We love you!!


  1. I never comment, but I just HAD to comment on this post. I have 6 boys and my oldest just turned 13 in November. You nailed all my feelings in your writing. Thank you for writing this and for everything you write. Your writing challenges and affirms. Keep up the great work! Also, my youngest (2 in May) waits anxiously for his biggest brother to get home from school, too. I just LOVE their relationship!

  2. Susan, I love this. LOVE THIS. For one billion reasons, but mostly because we are in this together, raising amazing boys with all the love we have. Happy birthday to Benedict!

  3. This was such a beautiful post!! Happy birthday to your 13 year old!!! What an exciting age.
    I cried reading your thoughts on looking down the pew at Mass - my youngest will be 13 in less than 2 weeks. Some days I just want to freeze time!!

    1. Thanks, Kim! BTW we will be heading to Topeka this weekend for the tournament. Andrew has had the flu all week, so we'll see how it goes!

  4. Oh my goodness. As I sit here with my one baby boy, I think "DOES HE REALLY HAVE TO GROW UP?!" I can't even imagine him as a teenager! I practically cried when he grew out of newborn diapers! Trying to take your advice to your own former self and just "be." It is hard. But truly, this is such a beautiful post - I really look up to you as a mama!

  5. What a beautiful, beautiful post, Susan. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  6. Susan, this is such a special post! I love everything about it. The bitter-sweetness of it hits me hard. My oldest is only 3 and my youngest is newly one, but I still cling desperately to each day with them. Just backing off my nursing of my youngest is heartbreaking. As a mother of boys, I especially enjoy hearing stories about your boys. By the way, the pictures are so sweet. Thanks as always for sharing your heart with us.


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