Several weeks ago Ben had his braces taken off.
(I know he doesn’t really want me to talk about him on the blog very much anymore and I respect that. But unfortunately (although not really), he has the honor of being my first born child. Therefore, all the firsts happen with him and I get to talk about them.)
Anyway, it was strange to see him without those metal pieces, like little teeth prisons, because it instantly aged him, right before me. Scenes of him older, flashed through my mind and I saw a steering wheel in his hands and then a cap and gown on his body and… you know the rest of the possibilities after that. Next, a wife on his arm, a baby in both arms, a house to call his own.
Geez, Elaine, it’s just braces…
Thank the good lord above, he is still 13 and I am trying hard to remind myself of it and keep him there, even though his teeth are now free. Of course no matter his age, he will always be my child. I will always guide him the best I know how, help him with his problems (if he asks, or something like that) and worry about his future.
For now I will relish in the fact that once his homework is done, he goes out in the driveway and plays basketball or watches a silly YouTube video. I will laugh at his new affinity for puns (even if they are groaners). I will remember that even though he reminds me so much of one of my brothers, in the face, he is still his own person and always will be. I will be grateful that he both grounds me and calms me down at times, even if it should be the other way around. And I acknowledge how I will miss his ability to talk “baby talk” to the dog in a high-pitched voice, because soon that voice will disappear.
Last Thursday I saw him standing on the sidelines of the football field for the first time, as a player. He’s really an honorary player this season, since the 8th grade boys do not really get the opportunity to play. Still, it was a little surreal to see him standing there, in a jersey, with a legitimate number on his back, cheering on his teammates.
Then the other day, when I picked the kids up from after school care, he was sitting at one of the tables, playing with a little pre-school boy. They had wooden blocks and were using them like dominoes. I stood there for about 30 seconds, watching them and as we left I could see how downtrodden the little boy was. “He’s so cute, Mom,” my son said. “Yes, precious,” I said as I remembered him at that age.
This age is so interesting because he really is leaving childhood behind. His voice is different. His face has more definition. He does so many things on his own now. As the days go by, we scarce take notice of the changes because everything seems to move so fast in our world. But if I stop, just for a minute, I see it and feel it. In my motherly bones, I feel the intense need to hit pause, but I cannot. And on the reverse, I want to let him fly, to force the changes in my mind, and let them happen as they should. Yet not forget to remember them in my heart.
The first-born child does everything first, including opening our heart to a love we have never known before – one that is almost indescribable. One that changes us completely.
So yes, the braces are off. The touchdowns and car keys and girlfriends are next. But for now, I like this spot in the middle of it all, and I will rest here with him as long as he lets me.