It was an unseasonably warm winter Sunday in January. My daughter had a friend over, and my son was bored. It was foggy, and I decided to walk with my camera on a nearby beach. I told my son he was coming with me. No excuses.
He half-heartedly grumbled for a while, but he went. By the time we were walking to the beach, he was just yanking my chain, complaining about having to hang out with me for the sake of entertainment. With great solemnity, he said, "Mom, I'm almost eleven. I'm a tween. I'm separating from you."
I don't know what they're teaching them in Health class at school, but that's way too much self-awareness for me.
He turned eleven today, and the whole thing has me a little verklempt. While eleven falls smack dab in the middle of 6 and 16, it feels a whole lot closer to the latter than the former. He's changing rapidly, he's growing up, and yes, he's separating from me. It's natural and desirable, but it doesn't mean I can't be a little sad about it.
He's still in between, but he's heading away from me.
Like a six-year-old, he took special treats to school today and was eager to show me his projects in the school art show. We did those things, but that meant he didn't get to class until after the bell had rung.
Certain moments in life present metaphors so obvious that it's like being clubbed by them. I was clobbered by one.
As we left the art show and hurried to class, he asked if I would walk him to his classroom. Happy to spend even an extra minute or two with him on his special day, I rumpled his hair, gave him a squeeze, and began the short walk toward his classroom at the far end of the hall.
Most of the students were in their classrooms behind closed doors, so the long hallway felt like it belonged to us. As we approached his classroom, we spotted several of his friends smashing their faces against the glass of the sidelights. The boys began gesturing and trying to speak to my son through the glass and, without even realizing it, my son's gait sped up. He rushed forward to his friends, forgetting to say goodbye.
When he opened the door, a flock of boys shouted, "Happy birthday!" and "Where were you?"
I waved goodbye from the lockers and told him to have a good day, but he didn't hear me. He'd been enveloped by his friends, the door was closing, and I was left in the hall.