January 17, 2014

Having Children is Like Wearing Our Heart Outside of Our Bodies. ~ Heather Sayers Lehman

I don’t know what has happened to my life.

I’m cool. I feel relatively young, but I have a 13-year-old son who is six feet tall with a mustache and the beginnings of chest hair.

Chest hair.

He has chest hair.

When did this happen?

How did this happen?

Does this mean I’m not young anymore?

Does this mean he’s leaving soon?

Is this why the girls’ mothers get so nervous when they see him?

I don’t understand.

I was 29 when I had him. He was a gigantic 9 1/2 pound baby, so I should have known something was coming down the pike.

I just didn’t suspect how it would make me feel.

He’s always acted older than his age. Since his father and I got divorced over seven years, he has adopted a “man of the house” mentality. It was apparent when he was six-years-old and told one guy, “My mom used to have a friend like you.” Just letting the guy know that he was not so special. He has given most fellows the stink eye and been more than happy to see them go.

He is protective of his dear mother, and now he is able to look the part.

As he looks and acts more like a man, I find myself frantically trying to instill in him the traits of a good man.

I feel so much pressure to make sure that he is kind, thoughtful, considerate, aware and respectful while being happy, unique, content, opinionated, determined, curious, healthy and empathetic.

I don’t know where I got the idea that I just add these qualities like putting change in a piggy bank. Like he’s not his own person with his own moral barometer, preferences, thoughts and proclivities.

He has been the bravest soul learning how to play basketball at 10 years old when other kids have been playing for five and six years.

It has been a gift watching him work hard, try so many new things and speak up for himself. He was so sad after his basketball game last night. His team played the tiniest team I’ve ever seen. Lucas towered over them. He felt like the game wasn’t fair. He felt bad for the little fellows.

He went to give them a pep talk afterwards. Not for a second did he revel in his team’s 40 point win. He felt bad for the other team’s 40 point loss.

I worry about sending such a kind, sensitive guy into the world.

The world is not always so kind; people aren’t always so kind.

To think of someone hurting my gentle giant makes me cry. But I know it will happen.

So far, he is brave. He takes risks. He puts himself out there. I hope he stays that way because it will take him far, but he will get some bumps and bruises.

I want him to have the awareness that he is magnificent and that there are people who won’t want him to feel magnificent.

I want him to be sensitive without taking other people’s B.S. to heart. I want him to have a strong identity. I want him to walk without armor and know that he is okay no matter what.

I had heard that having kids is like wearing your heart outside of your body. I had no idea how true that would be. I fool myself into thinking he is okay because he is so big.

Then I look at him and realize that he is becoming the man that I had dreamed he would be. He is kind. He is empathetic. He is sensitive. He loves his mother.

Immediately after he was born and they laid him on my chest, it was the most surreal moment. First of all, I thought “This is one big baby.” Then I thought, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this baby?”

Then I looked into his big baby face and couldn’t believe that God would trust me to take care of something so special. I could not believe that I was worthy of such a gift.

I have tried and failed at doing my best. I have paid attention and have been distracted. I got a divorce and have missed half of his life. Half of his life. I pray that it doesn’t become my biggest regret.

I pray that it doesn’t make me a selfish person for not being there every day.

I pray that he doesn’t blame me for it.

I do comfort myself knowing that he is with his father who is a very good man that I have a very good relationship with.

Kids get bigger. They grow. Lucas wore a pair of my jeans the other day. I don’t even know how to feel about that. I have to go buy him 32×34 jeans tonight. Holy crap. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that this giant baby has grown into man.

I feel like I’m shoving all of these life lessons at him now because he’s going to be gone in 20 minutes. It sure seems like 20 minutes ago he was a chubby baby with a persistent rash on his cheek from his binky.

What do I even think he needs to know?

Don’t take things personally.

You are an amazing human being no matter what you do.

You are loved beyond human reasoning.

You are never alone.

If I never accomplish another thing, having you would be enough for me.

Be creative.

Keep being brave.

Be yourself.

Create your own path.

Never settle.

So fingers crossed, he will be happy and content. Fingers crossed that I didn’t mess him up in any major way. I hope he always feels empathetic for the other guy.

I am the absolutely luckiest person in the world to have my part of my heart walking around in the world as a 13-year-old with chest hair.

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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Plesa Stefan/Pixoto

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Heather Sayers Lehman