Psssst… Excuse me… Have you seen this baby? I miss him terribly.
His name was Danny, and he was a warm, snuggly baby with an infectious laugh that could melt my heart, even after the longest, most-draining of days. It seems like I just saw him a month or two ago; the date stamp on my photos showing they were taken 15-16 years ago cannot possibly be correct. No, that can’t be right at all.
If you haven’t seen Danny, I wonder if you know the whereabouts of this boy – his name was Dan.
Mischievous and inquisitive, he was hungry to learn about everything he could. He spent his free time learning about the world around him and testing his limits. He was also still enough of a child to dole out affection liberally and wasn’t embarrassed about hugging mom and dad. I’m sure I just saw him a couple of weeks ago. Pay no attention to the date stamps showing these photos are 7-8 years old. There must be a problem with the dates, for it feels like I took these just yesterday.
No? You haven’t seen Dan either? Wherever Danny and Dan have gone, in their place is a 6’ tall young man named Daniel. Sometimes, a facial expression will remind me of that baby and child, but Daniel has the deep voice and strength of a full-grown man. And, I guess that’s pretty close to the truth. You see, he’ll be 17 tomorrow.
At this age, Daniel is caught somewhere between the carefree world of boyhood and the responsibilities of adulthood; every day brings some new lesson about how to be a young adult.
This past year has seen him become independently mobile with his driver’s license (well, independent when we let him borrow the car, that is) and get his first paying job, outside the house. Working as a cashier has taught him some valuable lessons about human nature and responsibility; I’m sure he could write an entertaining blog of his own about some of his experiences.
This time of year, I always find myself getting nostalgic and prone to reminiscing about days gone by. It’s silly, really; I love this young man at this age just as much as I’ve loved him at any other age. My heart, and my eyes, well up when I think about how proud I am of the man he’s becoming. So, why is late March so emotionally-charged for me, and why do I find myself wishing I could hold that baby boy or take my little boy’s hand crossing the street again, just one more time? This is what I signed on for as a parent, right?
Maybe I’m realizing that I’m running out of time to teach him everything I think he needs to learn to get by on his own in the world. At the same time, I’m realizing that it’s not up to me to teach him everything – the wider world will fill that role for me, like it or not.
As a parent, I want to see my child succeed, of course. But, he has to be the one to define what “success” looks like – not me, not his father, not his teachers or friends. Him. All we can do is point him in the direction we think is best, let his make his own decisions and mistakes, and let him know that we’ll be here for him when he needs us.
Still… Even as I want to give him the whole world, a piece of my heart still yearns for the days when his father and I were his whole world.
I need to remind myself that the next time I catch a glimpse of that baby or little boy in his smile or in his laughter, that he’s really Danny/Dan/Daniel all rolled into one wonderful human being.
With all my heart, happy 17th birthday, kiddo.