By Bethany Parker
As I begin to write this I know there are dozens, probably even hundreds, of posts of this nature, of this very topic and content. Even as I compose these sentences in my head, I imagine that I’m following in the footsteps of countless of other mothers that have gone before me. I consider the similarity between my story and that of these other mothers, these families, and I wonder where our collective paths merge and where they veer off again, both literally and figuratively. But this is my story, my son’s story, and these lines are ours alone.
I looked across the room at his 125 pounds of man-boy self — fully present in all black with that new third-degree black belt tied perfectly so that the lettering faced out and his name was visible — with his close-but-not-quite-a-man’s voice calling out the count as the master led them through their paces. The class moved around him as he appeared to move in slow motion, the curls of his newly longish hair damp against his head, and taller than ever before in this dojo. He’s deliberately aloof so there’s no possibility of making eye contact with me in the mirror.
I haven’t watched him here in almost six months, and I’m struck by how he now looks out on the floor. As tall as many of the adults, confident and capable, he resembles the young men he once looked up to on his trek from white belt to black. He stands with them at the front of the room now, demonstrating the more difficult blocks and kicks with the master as his sparring partner, while the newer students watch and then attempt. Repeat. His intensity in here has always surprised and impressed me, and now as I watch I see the ease at which he moves through this hour of his day, how naturally this comes to him. And a small bubble of jealousy rises up in me. His typical adolescent awkwardness eclipsed by budding skills and self-discovery, I realize that the roles are now reversed; he is now the young man that others look up to and imitate inside these four walls.
This is my son. This is why I washed diapers, warmed bottles, woke up at all hours of the night for so many years. This is why I drove across town for countless swim lessons, Tae Kwon Do lessons, chess lessons, band concerts, parent teacher conferences, birthday parties and play dates. This is why I own — and still use — a pair of roller blades, still throw a decent pop fly and know where all the good climbing trees are in Champaign-Urbana. This is why I stay up late thinking about, worrying over and praying. This is why my phone bleeps at noontime with a quick text to tell me he’s passed a difficult test or found a funny Doctor Who picture he wants to share with me. This boy, this almost-man. This kid who is now backing the van out of the garage, doing his own laundry and has twice shaved the shadowy mustache above his lip. This is why I would do it all again in a heartbeat, just to watch him again at Tae Kwon Do for another five minutes.
Bethany Parker, a frequent contributor to Chambanamoms.com, is mom to the three wilds who, despite all of their recent growing up, still manage to leave Legos where she steps on them barefoot, marbles in their pants pockets and various food wrappers on the floor of the car.