Just a Few Inches

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Teenage angst. If you have one in your house—a teenager, that is—you understand.

My youngest, my baby, turned fourteen this year. In just a few short months, he grew taller than me, his voice changed, and he stepped out of his boyish charms and into young manhood seemingly overnight.

We’re close, he and I, and I think that makes it even harder to watch the changes because a big part of me is not ready. Not ready to let go. Especially with my last—the one I want to cling to for eternity.

Lately, my little guy’s been more on edge. A little prickly. A little more argumentative than I’m used to from him. He’s no longer crazy about the food I make or the opinions I hold. He went through his first crush—through and out the other end—with only a handful of words to me, though I knew it rocked his world.

Maybe I’m not as full and center in his life right now as I’d like to be. He no longer seems to need a band aid, a tissue, or even a hug. If I steal one anyway, there are a few inches in between that weren’t there before. The child who used to run to me, and only me, who sat on my lap and played with my hair, who searched for my face first in the crowd, now goes somewhere else.

He’s pulling back, pulling away. Not that he loves me less, he just might not need me as much.

So, with all this prickling, I can get a little snappy myself. I can feel injured, disrespected, or unloved very quickly. And out of that, I can respond before I’ve processed it through the right filters that say, this too shall pass. And how quickly it will.

I had a dream last night that I wanted to share. It’s meaning was for me—and for him. And, I don’t know, maybe for you too.

In this dream, something strange happened and Noah, my fourteen-year-old, suddenly became eight. Some wizard or something had transformed him in the blink of an eye. He had hit a 6-year replay button, and I had unexpectedly been given the gift of time. I had all those years to relive. All those moments to gain back. Strangely, I remember in the dream that the most important thing I wanted to tell my now 8-year-old was what an amazing young man he would be at fourteen. “Just wait until you see!” I said. “I can’t wait to get there together.”

Yet, while I was still locked in the same dream, my now eight-year-old became three. Wow! Three. Now I had eleven years to relive! To do it all again. To change any mistakes I made as a mom. To turn back the hands of time and defy the years. I had them all back once more.

But when I tried to talk to Noah, to tell him how excited I was to watch him grow again and what this could mean for us, he just smiled blankly and wanted to play. He had no use for my philosophical pondering. No use for big words or lost dreams. He was three. And I was his world once again.

But suddenly I noticed his blond hair was lighter than I knew it to be. His eyes, a little darker. His laughter off just a bit.

And then, as I held my three-year-old version of Noah, it hit me. And it hit me so hard, had I been awake, I know it would have knocked my breath out. I realized then that his experiences as we relived them would be different than they had been the first time around. They would form him and mold him. They would change him. That although he would still be Noah, by the time he reached fourteen, he would be different. Not exactly the same. Not my Noah.

I had no control to go forward. To jump to the future. To change my mind. And somehow in wanting to relive his life, I had lost him.

In my dream, I cried a heart-wrenching cry and mourned deeply the loss of my boy.

When I woke, I was still crying. It was that kind of dream you can’t escape. It hangs tight.

I found Noah—my Noah, my fourteen-year-old beautifully angsty teenager—and held him in my arms without the inches between us. Through a choking sob that shook me from the inside out, I shared the dream with him. I told him what I tried to tell him at eight and at three. That I loved him with all my heart. That I was amazed at the young man he had become. And how, no matter what, I would never want him any other way. Ever.

My fourteen-year-old—he’s not without fault, but he is perfect. Right now. Right always.

And this year—this precious, jarring, tousled year of fourteen—I’ll never have back again. Ever. So, I don’t want to miss a moment of it—the first time.