Thursday, September 15, 2016

Watching Your Little Boy Turn Into A Man

They say that "a daughter is a daughter for life, but a son is a son until he takes a wife." 

In May of 2016, I said fuck that. They don't know my kid. They don't know how special the bond is between us. They have no idea how determined I am to break the fucking mold.

As my eighteen-year-old son packed up his bedroom and prepared for his departure to U. S. Army basic training, I spent lots of quality time with him. My place as a source of comfort, wisdom, and unconditional love in my son's life was solidified. He was my baby boy, forever and always, even though he had a full-grown beard and could kiss the top of my head when we hugged. I was going to rock this Army mom shit.

When he left, I grieved. Lord have mercy, I grieved so fucking hard. I prepared myself for how much the Army would change him. What caught me completely off guard was losing my baby boy to another woman. You see, my son has a pretty little eighteen-year-old girlfriend he's dated on and off for over a year. When he left I was convinced of my place as his 'go-to girl.' Boy, was I wrong.

The first text came from his girlfriend came about two weeks after he'd left home.

GIRLFRIEND: Check your mailbox! I just got three letters!

I texted my husband.

ME: Did I get a letter?

HUSBAND: Not yet. Did you get a Kohl's charge card?

ME: Don't open my mail.

My mailbox was empty for a week. Without fail, I continued to write him every other day. I would be stoic, damn it. I would not stalk the mail carrier, and I would not be jealous. But, oh God, I was so jealous. When my letter finally arrived, it was four pages long, and I was ecstatic. I read my son's tiny hand-writing every day for a week. Then, I anxiously waited for the next letter. Two weeks went by without another word.

GIRLFRIEND: I got a letter from him! It was one envelope with three letters in it!

I texted my husband.

ME: Did I get a letter?

HUSBAND: Nope. But your Victoria's Secret bill arrived. What the fuck did you buy for $235???


Another week came and went. I hadn't heard from my son in almost a month and was desperate for news about him.

GIRLFRIEND: I got two letters! Did you get yours? He said in my letter he was going to write you for your birthday.

ME: No. I didn't get a letter. (broken heart emoji)

GIRLFRIEND: Awww. I'm sure you'll get it soon. He said he would write. Don't take it personally. You know he's really busy.

What in the actual fuck? Oh, no, she didn't just try to spare my feelings - but she did and it was incredibly humbling. I realized that I was no longer the most important woman in my son's life. He was in love with a girl who had a good heart and returned his love. She even shared parts of her letter with me so I could see that he was okay. And I refused to think about how disturbing it was that she had to block parts of it out. Ick!

For a few days I processed this turn of events. Serious, life altering questions kept me awake at night: Where did this leave me in our relationship? Was I no longer a source of comfort for him? Would I still be allowed to hug him and smooch his little face when I see him again? Who gets the first hug on Family Weekend?

A mother's love is different with boys than it is with girls. I know - we all love our children equally. I get it. But when your son places his baby hands on your face and tells you sincerely that he's going to marry you someday, your heart melts into a giant puddle. Those are the memories you hold close when you see them drive off in their first car or walk across the stage at graduation. You don't think about a future time when he will tell his deepest secrets to another woman. You don't think about the day he will stand against you and defend her. But he will, and you must prepare yourself for it.

I was woefully unprepared. The baby books don't talk about the milestone when your son draws a line in the sand between both of you and tells you to stay on your side. But this marks the passage into manhood. My son is doing grown man shit. He's learning how to become a badass motherfucker. He can't do this and pine for momma too. I know in my deepest heart that he still loves me, but it's a different kind of love.

I stopped counting letters and stalking the mail carrier. Now, I cherish my son's letters and share them with his girlfriend because she misses him too. We both laugh at his single-minded focus on how hungry he is, how hot he is, and how tired he is of marching. I cry private tears and miss him as only a momma can. Then, I pull out my notebook paper and tell him to "Ranger Up" in my next letter.

As Family Weekend quickly approaches, his girlfriend and I are flying to visit him. His last letter to me said that he knows how hard it is to share him, but that he is grateful that I am bringing her with me. I smiled to myself as I read it because, even though I have grown as a momma this summer, I still know how to trip a bitch if she tries to get the first hug.

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