I knew a boy once who was born with one eye closed. His panicked mother thought his eye was missing, but then his little puffy lid opened and his unseeing eyes found her face. And in that instant he was branded on her heart forever.
I knew a boy once, who loved to hear his mother sing ‘Skinamarinkidink’ while they watched The Elephant Show. The same boy could listen to Hansen’s ‘Mmmbop’ on a loop for the best part of every day – his face lighting up and little body swaying as soon as he heard the first bars of the song.
I knew a boy once, who could climb like a mountain goat when he had barely settled into his first big boy shoes. He loved nothing more that to head off to the mountains with his Dad, fearlessly scaling peaks, scrambling along ledges, and returning home rosey cheeked and exhausted.
I knew a boy once who made my sides ache with laughter when he arrived down to the sitting room, bare chested, underpants on head, brandishing a foam sword and declaring that he was here to battle Zena the warrior princess.
I knew a boy once whose hand could fit inside of mine, who loved to have his back tickled, who hugged so hard you thought you would blend into him, and whose kisses felt like dreams.
I blinked and that boy had become a man. A generous, loving, giving, bright, beautiful man. And my heart broke a little. I wish I had spent more time listening to every little story he told. I wish I had taken more time to praise all the crayon creations that I distractedly put on the fridge. I wish I had cleaned less and played more. I wish I had watched him more as he slept, laying my head on his and breathing him in. I wish I had given him more of my time, my full attention. I wish I had walked with him more, and left the dirty dishes in the sink. I wish I had told him more how proud I am of him and how lucky I am to have had him. I wish I had spent more time encouraging and less time giving out. I wish I had been a better mother. I missed so many minutes, so many precious seconds and now it is too late to get any of them back.
God, but if I could only turn back the clock I’d appreciate the time with this little boy so much more. Lastnight I dropped him to the bus. He’s on a plane now, beginning a new adventure. He’s not going far, not going to the other side of the world, so why is my heart breaking into a million pieces? Why can’t I stop crying? Maybe it’s because this feels like its final. The beginning of a new chapter. Is this what letting go is like? I want him to go, want him to see the world and create his own story. I knew this day would come, but I didn’t know it would be this hard. I played the part of the young woman once and I couldn’t wait to forge my own path. I never thought for one minute that someday I would have to play the part of the mother and that it would be a part I would constantly struggle with. This man is one of my five greatest creations, but he is not mine. He does not belong to me and yet he will be forever part of me. And I know it will get easier, and I’ll pull myself together. I have four other children to focus on, to give more time to, to help me become better at being ‘Mam”.
But for now, I miss my boy. There is a hole in my heart the size of the moon and I can’t see the stars anymore.