“Remembering the Boy, Who’s Now a Man,” column for July 28, 2015

His card will be late. I forgot to mail it. I forget lots of stuff. But I will always remember the boy. So I called him.

“Happy birthday!” I said. “I’m so glad you were born!”

He laughed at my “so glad you were born” tradition. I started it when my kids were little. Now they say it to me.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said. “And thanks for having me.”

“My pleasure,” I replied.

We both laughed at that. Childbirth can be described in all sorts of ways. Pleasure isn’t usually one of them. But years after giving him birth, it’s such a pleasure to see the man that baby has become.

From the start, he was different from his big brother and sister _ calmer, quieter, an old soul in a fat little body.

Maybe the difference was me. I was no rookie. I’d been a mother five years. I was older, wiser, smarter, a veteran.

That’s how it works. With the first child, everything feels like a life-and-death issue. With the second, you loosen the knots on the standards just a little. With the third (to steal a line from one of my favorite movies, “Parenthood”) you let ’em juggle knives.

Figuratively speaking, of course. I never let the boy juggle knives as a baby. He was almost three before he started doing that.

It’s hard to say what caused the sudden change. One day, when he was about a year old, it seemed as if God reached down from heaven and rapped him on the head. And that calm, quiet baby crawled to the sofa, pulled himself up, shouted “Hoowie!” and started running.

He never walked. He ran day and night, rain or shine. When I’d put him to bed, he’d run laps like a racecar along the railing of his crib until he ran out of gas.

The day he started running, his hair began to curl, tighter and tighter, woolier and woolier. He looked liked a two-legged sheep. I’ve often wondered if the running caused the curling, or the curling caused the running. Or were they were both caused by God rapping on his head?

Who knows? There are things about a child you will never understand. You just ponder them forever in your heart.

To keep him in his seat at school, I wanted to chain him to his desk. But I knew he would drag it around the room.

For 18 years, the harder I tried to slow him down, the faster he would run. Finally, in the end, it all came down to this: I had to turn him loose, give him up to God and let the boy run.

Yes, it broke my heart. But a mother’s heart, like her apron strings, is meant to be broken. Sooner or later, to grow up, a child needs the freedom to choose how fast and far to run.

Parenting is a bittersweet irony. You spend years caring, feeding, teaching, protecting, until one day you look into your child’s eyes and say, “It’s your life, not mine. Take it and run with it.”

Then comes the hard part: You have to sit back and watch. I’ve been watching for years. Grace of God, I love what I see.

The boy still runs, but these days it’s mostly to give chase. He teaches third grade at that school where I wanted to chain him to his desk. And he has three little ones of his own at home: Randy is five, Wiley is two and a half; Eleanor is six months old.

Being a teacher gives him more appreciation for former teachers. Being a father gives him more respect for his mom.

Having lost his dad to cancer years ago, he is grateful for the example his dad set for him as a father, a teacher, a man. It’s the same example he sets now for his children and his students.

I wish you could see him.

“Time goes so fast,” he said. “I keep thinking Eleanor’s a newborn, but she’s not.”

“Trust me,” I said, “you’ll still think that when she’s grown.”

She’ll always be his baby. He’ll always be mine. And I’ll forever be so glad that they were born.


  1. I read so little of the newspaper these days because the news is often depressing, but I’ve found myself looking forward to your column for quite some time now. Finding your blog was a blessing because I no longer have to wait for the Saturday paper to read your warm, inspirational words!

  2. Sheila Torres says

    Another heartfelt column. I love reading your columns. Most of them strike very close to home for me. I had three boys so I can totally relate. They’re all grown men now with children of their own but they will always be my babies. Keep writing from your heart as you do because it touches our hearts. We love you !

  3. Yes, my boy would always be a boy for me ,even he has 2 kids of his own . He has grown very too big when he teaches me to grow up ,when I act like child with my grand children like they are my kids too . He can tell me he is grown up like a big man but he would always be a kid to me when he would come to see me some day all by himself and miss his family one day at least because he does not know how I can grow up to tell him ,I am just a mom of big grown up boy not a young mom anymore , mom who had seen him growing up bit by bit in the past like his kids are growing . Wish I could store those memories ,those were not days of digital cameras . But I have to forget those days as I have grown old ,not that old like I cannot fly by myself in the plane to see him and his family if he is too bust taking care of his family . Wish that is not far away . I can go whenever I want just waiting any plane charges less money less than I can pay . Little less or more air fair cannot stop me and I am ready for that moment any time any day if possible . Thanks Sharon for reminding that mom is always a mom for kids , and kids are always kids for mom .

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