“Mom, I don’t want to need you less,” he said in a choked up voice.
We were in the car after the usual get-ready-for-school spectacle, in which I inwardly wished multiple times for my oldest to take more responsibility for himself. We made it into the car on time after all, a miracle every time it happens, which is pretty often. On our way to school, he wondered out loud how many years he and his little sister would be in school together. I counted it out. Three more years. She goes to preschool at the same school he attends, so they are technically in school together. But next year Kindergarten for her, he in Fourth. Then First, he in Fifth. Then… Middle School.
“I’m not ready!” I said.
He wanted to know why. Three years is an eternity to him, after all. Almost half again as long as he’s been alive.
“It’s just that you’re getting older all the time. I mean, I want that. As parents we want you to grow up, to be healthy and independent. But as you grow older, you’ll need us less, and then we’ll miss when you were little. It seems to happen so fast for us.” Faster than we expected even, because he had arrived at third grade a whole year earlier than his peers.
I could hear the strain in his voice. How he didn’t want to need me less. He couldn’t imagine a time when Mom isn’t front and center in his universe. And even though I had just been begging with him to remember what he needs to do for school in the morning without me reminding him (I still want that), I remembered that he still needs me for all kinds of things. Thank goodness.
“Let’s change what I said. You’ll need me differently, not less. Okay?”
“Okay.” And he leaned into my side as we walked into school. Let me kiss his temple with a whispered “Bye” while he chatted with a friend. Though the time for that kind of connection may be limited, it is still full. Not yet waning. Not yet.