The Tides are Turning: A Letter to My 6-Year Old Son
Dear 6-year old son,
Something is happening, between you and me. The winds are changing. I can feel it—this inevitable, this impending thing called growing up that you appear committed to. I see it in your face at night, when I check on you while you are asleep. You look so much older all of a sudden. And your long legs take up so much more of your bed now. You’ve taken to talking back here and there. I think I saw an eye-roll the other day in response to a lecture from me.
You’ve been a bit down-trodden lately. You are missing your daddy who has been out of town for work. Another kid picked on you the other day and it upset you. You sat in tears at the dinner table telling me how your feelings were hurt, and I didn’t know what to say. So last night, after you and your siblings went to bed, I decided I’d surprise you. After I brought your sister and brother to preschool today, I arrived at your school to have a special lunch next to you in the cafeteria. I know there are only a few years where moms are allowed (by their kids) to sit on those benches, amidst rows of lunch trays full of sausage links and waffle sticks (today’s choice) and chocolate milks and apple juices. I know I better take advantage of your willingness, your desire, to have me join you for school lunch while I still can. For far too soon, this 25-minute window will no longer be a time when Mom is welcome to sit alongside you amongst your friends.
I was so excited to see your face, watch you run up to me and feel your little (but big) arms around me in a bear hug. I was ready 45 minutes early and paced the house, watching the clock. This was going to cheer you up, make your day. THIS was going to be the best part of your whole week! Lunch with Mommy!
Well buddy, you were surprised. And you were happy to see me.
But run up to me and wrap your arms around me… you did not. You welcomed me next to you and your friends, and I enjoyed you sharing the silly song you and your best friend made up. You let me have a waffle stick and told me a few tidbits about your day. But you also turned your back to me several times to engage with your friends. In the 25 minutes I sat next to you, we probably talked for 10 minutes total. I resisted the urge to ruffle your hair and wipe the syrup off of your chin. I sat in silence, listening and watching you, my growing up boy.
The tides are turning. I can see it and feel it. You still ask me to snuggle you at night. You haven’t retreated to your bedroom yet behind closed doors. You still spend most of your days downstairs, playing with your brother and sister. You still like Mom and Dad being around. But I saw something today. I saw where I currently stand. And I saw a glimpse of the future. I saw it when you shared your “exciting news” with the cafeteria helper.
“Guess what?!” you excitedly proclaimed. “I got to sit by my best friend from another class today for the first time! And my mom is here!”
And my mom is here? There was an entire complete thought, followed by a an exclamation point and a conjunction before I was introduced. My surprise lunch wasn’t the best thing that happened to you all week, or even today. Part of me is sad. Part of me feels wounded by this slight. But honestly, a much bigger part of me feels other things. The greatest emotion I felt today was pride. I saw today who you are at school. You are happy and confident and loved by all sorts of friends. (And you ate your entire lunch!) The other feeling I had was relief, if I’m telling the truth. You see little guy, I want a lot of things for you. I want you to be successful and passionate about whatever you do in life. But most of all, I want you to feel happy, and safe, and loved. I want you to have friends who get you and appreciate you for all the wonderfulness that are. When you were younger and would only read books and didn’t want to play with other kids, Daddy and I worried. We worried you might be picked on and struggle to fit in. We just wanted you to feel accepted and valued. And I saw today that you are accepted, valued, and loved, by a bunch of people other than me. They know you and love you. For you.
So I’m telling you that it’s okay that you turned away a few times to tell jokes with your friends. And although I wanted a big tight squeeze from you before leaving, and a “Thank you, Mommy! This was the BEST surprise EVER!” but instead I got a “Thanks, Mom! See ya later!” before you skipped off, that’s okay too.
I am realizing that I no longer stand on the top of the pedestal for you. I’m now on a plateau, with your friends, alongside each other with equal footing and value in your eyes. I hope we hang out here for a long time, because I know at the end of this plateau is a cliff, a drop off, into the teenage abyss were Mom is only needed for money, food, and car keys. So I want to say thanks for letting me having lunch with you today. After school, if you want me to build Legos with you, I’d love that. But if you would rather play outside with your buddies, I understand. I’ll wait until bedtime when we can snuggle and you can tell me all about the rest of your day. I know you need to turn seven soon, but I hope we can still do lunch once in a while. Mommy would really love that.
Karen Johnson is a former English teacher turned SAHM. Her blog The 21st Century SAHM is a cathartic mix of sarcasm, angry rants, and heartfelt confessions. Her work can also be found on other sites such as Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, What the Flicka, Mamalode, Mom Babble, and Sammiches & Psych Meds. Karen is a Today Parents contributor and also contributes regularly to KC Parent magazine. Find her on Facebook at The 21st Century SAHM and on Twitter @21stcenturysahm.