The Ages and Stages of a Lifetime of Awe

by ParentCo. December 12, 2017

close up of boy with blue eyes

I gaze at my son across the table. His lean face concentrates on the screen in front of him, the lower half of his face covered carefully in just-the-right-length fuzz. He looks up and his blue eyes pierce mine, trusting and innocent in their expectations of our relationship. His tenor voice fills me in on the current difficulty he's having booking a flight.

My child. My boy. My young man. My son.

I am as awed now as when I first met this person, newly emerged from my body.

My baby

I'm transported back to when I see those huge blue eyes in the round, muck-covered face, the pert nose above the full cherub mouth. The midwife says, "Look at those eyes. He’s been here before!" Indeed, he does look wise and knowing.

Lying in the country hospital, I turn my head and watch in wonder. My baby is in his transparent crib beside me, his hands waving, wandering, gathering, exploring the newness. His face experiments with life’s expressions – a frown, a growl, at peace with the world, a smile. I am full with a love that can never be described. I am besotted. I adore him.

I watch as my mother lays her grandson on the lambswool mat. Gently, she strokes his baby back and he relaxes into a continued love of massage. He embodies trust and innocence.

I drink in who he is. I am stunned. He is my son.

I ponder my role in his life. I must parent for the long term, for his emotional health, for his full potential. I must parent for our relationship, to ensure it lasts a lifetime.

My toddler

His round pudgy legs propel him down the hallway at full speed. He throws himself at me. "My Mummy!" he yells as I sweep him up into my arms and cover him with kisses. He is a constant source of wonder and laughter and comfort.

I've a pad of paper and pen attached to the fridge with a magnet. As my son begins to talk, I record his words and then his sentences. I think they'll be fun and interesting to read in the future. They are.

When he's two, he makes observations like "Mummy makes noise into tissue" as I blow my nose, or "Look at the helicopter" as we spot a dragonfly. He asks questions, "Mum, did you talk to the girl in the money box?" while ordering drive-through food. He melts my heart with "You are my sunshine. I love you."

If I close my eyes, I feel his soft hand, gently resting on my knee, just there, because that’s where it belongs.

I look down, and I marvel at the roundness, the tiny wrinkles, the perfection of those five fingers and tiny fingernails, that chubby wrist.

I inhale his sweet toddler scent. I am moved by his empathy when he sees me upset, gently brushing away my hair from my forehead. "It’ll be alright, Mummy, it’ll be alright."

My primary school boy

His life is not easy, and it requires him to source a depth of inner strength and resilience that many adults would struggle to find. I equip him to survive as best I can.

I am super-stressed by outside events. I yell at him. I feel terrible. Then we repair. We address my behavior and his behavior, my feelings and his feelings. I listen, and I listen some more. Our relationship deepens and strengthens.

We're standing in the kitchen. I say to him, "You know how you always wanted a brother or sister? Well, now you are going to have one."

"Are you pregnant?" he says, disbelieving. "I thought you were getting fatter because you were eating too much of my step-father’s good roast dinners!"

He hoped for a brother, one that he could play with immediately. Four days after his sister is born, his earnest eyes look to me and he says, "Mum, how could I love her so much when I’ve only known her for a few days?"

Daily I marvel at the depth, warmth, and understanding between brother and sister. This is the relationship that must endure beyond me. Observing their loving banter comforts and amuses me beyond words.

My 18-year-old

I hear him striding down the hallway.

"Mum, Mum! Does this say what I think it says?"

He's won a scholarship to study in another city. He's worked hard at school and found his "spark," and now he's decided to follow his passion into his adult life. We have only three short weeks to find him a place to live, to set him up for living his life by himself, outside the family home.

We remain in touch, although not often enough for me. Then we fall into the habit of texting, rather than talking. We visit each other. We meet his girlfriend.

I fall ill. My son is there, supporting his sister, supporting me. His grandmother develops Alzheimer’s. He visits her in the nursing home, spooning mush into her mouth, telling her stories of his life and her life. His grandfather is not well, and my son is there for him, just as his grandfather was there for my son. He travels to see his sister in her school concerts. We travel to cheer him in his concerts.

My young man

Now my son is on his way to his next adventure. This time, he will be thousands of kilometres away, not only in another city, but another country.

We have the joy of my son staying with us for a week, before he departs Australia. His dry wit and playfulness once again lighten our household. His sister and the dogs delight in his company.

I soak up every minute, every hour I'm with him. We sit next to each other on the couch. I massage his back as I listen to his concerns and his hopes, and I am grateful for this physical method of connection threaded throughout his life.

On a spur-of-the-moment request, my son agrees to be a guest speaker at the parent education group (Parent Effectiveness Training, PET) I am teaching. Although he is not excited to speak, he knows this is important to me. The parents fire question after question.

"How did the PET skills influence the relationship with your Mum?"

"How did this way of parenting affect your teen years?"

"What would your top three tips be for parents raising teenage boys?"

He relaxes openly into the chair, listens, thinks, and answers from his unique perspective.

I am deeply moved by what I hear. Not only by his responses, but by his casual, familiar, easy, and affectionate use of the word "Mum." In his deep man-voice, my baby boy openly discusses his warm relationship with me, the only person he calls "Mum."

As my pivotal role in his life fades, I reflect. Where once I was his world, and he was mine, now he builds his own life, his own world. I am there, but to the side. Supporting. Cheering. Deeply connected, but no longer central.

I relish what we built together, based on a foundation of respect, trust, empathy, understanding, and love. We stood together against mutual external difficulties, each of us finding strength within ourselves, and strength together.

I am a mass of conflicting emotions. I worry for him, because I am his mum. I am sad for my daughter, for my father, for me, because I know how much we will miss him. But I am so excited for him, this young man opening his arms, embracing opportunities towards which he has planned and worked.

When he allows me to hug him tight, I hold on with everything I have. I feel his wiry torso, I smell his deodorant, I reach up and stroke his soft beard. I gaze into his blue, blue eyes, under his deep bushy brow, and I draw in my breath to stop the tears. I rest my head into his shoulder.

I drink in who he was, who he is, and who he is becoming.

I am stunned.

He is my son.

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