“My Child is a Preteen”: One Mother’s Realization

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The other day I looked at my first born child and realized something pretty significant–he is officially a preteen. I know I should have realized this when he reached the double digits in age but a couple of days ago, the realization came crashing in my face by way of a shopping trip to our local H&M. We were in the mall because I was so proud of my son consistently bringing home straight A's the entire semester. At first I was confused-were the classes too easy? Then  I remembered that I had put him in Honors sections at his middle school at the beginning of the school year so I knew they were challenging. I also remembered that night after night I had seen him hunched over the dining room table working on algebra, science or English with a worried look on his face. Proud of his accomplishments, I promised him that I would get him any gift he wanted–within reason.

So when report cards came out he had one wish–he wanted some new clothes. Or in his words,  "he needed to update his ‘swag’" and Gap Kids was no longer cool. At first I fought this with tooth and nail (what’s wrong with Gap Kids?) but after having several discussions, I realized that I had to let him express himself no matter how much I disagreed.

Last Saturday night, we headed to one of the many malls in the metro Atlanta area and landed in H&M. For at least an hour I watched my son try on clothes, look in the mirror and do sample poses with the clothes on.  I tried to give my opinion about what looked good but each time he gave me that look as if I had no clue what I was talking about. I decided (after prodding from my husband) that this time I would allow him to find his "swag'. He finally decided on several different outfits and while we were waiting to check out, I happened to look at him and I realized something very important. The child I birthed almost 12 years ago is growing up. He is developing his style, he is forming opinions and in  six more years he’ll be headed off to college. While waiting with a handful of clothes in my hands, I could feel my eyes welling up and a lump in my throat but I maintained my composure.

Where did the time go? I remember bringing him home from the hospital and having to learn how to breastfeed him on my own since my mother wasn't in the same city. I remember walking him into his first day of kindergarten and crying like a baby while he calmly walked in not paying any attention to me. I remember when he first told me he thought a girl was cute and I almost welled up in jealousy because he was my baby. I remembered all the good times he and I had these past twelve years and I know that next eternity will be even more awesome.

While I don’t know what will happen in the next six years of his teenage years, I do know that I have to start treating him like a young adult. No more babying him or doing everything for him.  I have to let go and let him find his way—little by little. Despite all my reservations, I'm getting better just today I decided to let him stay at home while I ran around the block (yes that is a big deal). So as I adjust to these middle school years, what advice would you give me?

Words by: Franchesca Lane-Warren

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