“Why do they look so tall all of a sudden?” I asked my friend as we trailed her twin 8-year-old boys down a hallway recently. “I know, right?” she sighed.
“They don’t look like little boys anymore . I don’t know when that happened.” And, as they say, therein lies the rub: our babies grow up when we’re not looking and entirely without our consent. Australian writer Mia Freedman gets it—a poignant post she recently wrote is going viral with moms all around the world.
Freedman, who is the co-founder and content director of Mamamia Women’s Network, penned an essay called “Your Son Growing Up Will Feel Like the Slowest Breakup You’ve Ever Known”— a glimpse into the hearts of boy moms from every walk of life who are connected. Australian radio personality Amanda Keller read portions of Freedman’s piece on-air and tearfully explained.
A emotional conversation between Keller and her co-host Brendan Jones has been viewed more than 9-million times on social media. “…you don’t actually parent one person, you parent many, many different people who are all your child. There’s the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the primary aged kid, the pre-teen, the adolescent, the full-blown teen, the young adult and then the adult. They all answer to the same name.
They all call you Mum. And you never ever notice the inflection point where one of those people turns into the next. You never get to properly say goodbye to all the little people who grow up because you don’t notice the growing, the changing.
Except when social media sends you those memory reminders that invariably make me cry because it’s like showing me the face of someone I can never see again. Not in that way. Not at that age.”
Oof. That’s exactly it, right?
I’m not the mom of a grown son yet (but believe me, I know the day will come sooner than I think), but I am raising a boy and sometimes I glimpse the man he’ll become—the man he’s already becoming. And Freedman is right: the shift is so subtle and steady it hides in plain sight until one random Tuesday morning, he glances up from his bowl of cereal and it nearly knocks me over. It’s all part of the gradual letting go that’s necessary and good—but leaves a mama’s heart aching all the same.
Freedman summed up that bittersweet feeling of loving and letting go like this:
“But while we know they love us, their lives no longer spin around their mother as their main axis. We are not the sun around which they spin. Not anymore. It would be weird if we were. I know that. Logically. Wait, though. I want to tell you about the good stuff about sons growing up.
Hopefully, at some stage, you get to watch them fall in love and see them loved in return and I’m not sure how to even describe the joy that infuses into my soul.” Because that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? That somehow, despite our imperfections, our shortcomings, and our yearning to keep them little, the sons we’re raising become men who don’t need us like our hearts still need little-boy them.
We love them to let them go, then swell with pride as they soar—because that’s motherhood.
And it’s guaranteed to make every last one of us cry over the blessing undeserved that is raising sons.