Those deep brown eyes no longer stare at me out of a round face that boasts chubby cheeks and a chiclet-toothed smile. He's all angles now, legs and arms and sharp bones that allow no give when I hug him.
He's learned crucial truths about his place in this world. "I'm not going to stare at you and talk about everything you want to talk about and laugh at all your jokes and say everything you do is amazing," I said in exasperation. "You have to do those things," he replied. "You're my mom and that's what moms are for."
He wants all of my attention, and none of it. The negotiations have already begun: To stay home alone, enter stores by himself, go to the movies with his friends, hold onto his own money. Though he still holds my hand in parking lots, his hand is as large as mine and his bony fingers hold no trace of his babyhood.
He makes his own lunch, sets his own alarm, and gets himself to the bus stop on time. He reminds me when his medication is low, keeps his own grocery list, and filled out his own application for football camp. When our town was devastated by a tornado, he taught other children the best way to stuff a toiletry kit and helped deliver plates of hot food to victims.
When I look at him, I get glimpses of what he'll look like as a man. Sometimes I try to see him objectively, view him as his eventual romantic partners will. I stop seeing that he still chews with his mouth open and instead notice his easy, slow smile. The way he notices everything happening in the room. How he listens intently when you speak.
He will make someone very happy some day. He will be considerate and gentle, romantic and funny, stubborn but adaptable.
Life with him is not easy. There's the intense anxiety over losing his teeth that's kept him up three nights in a row, the body-thrashing tantrums he falls into when his wants power ahead of his abilities (or his parents' decisions), and the forgetfulness that leaves me pounding my head against the wall.
He's extremely jealous of all three of his siblings and can't be alone in a room with his sister without driving her to tears. He's gotten into the habit of biting himself and has drawn his own blood several times in the past month.
He's still a 10 year old boy with clinical distraction and lots of anxiety. And yet, he's growing. Every day he's older and slightly more mature. He wears deodorant. When he stands in front of me, I can't see over his head.
He's my first born, and will be the first to fly the nest. The time between those milestones used to seem like eons. Today they are breaths exhaled too quickly, a twilight nap, a swath of wisteria thrown over roadside bushes -- exquisite and fleeting and gone before I could figure out how to appreciate them.
He's mine, now, but I see the steady spiral that will send him away from me. He will always be the child that made me a mother, but now I see he's the child who will teach me new definitions for that term as I loosen the boundaries I've spent 10 years maintaining.
I don't know when or how it will happen, but a day will come when he'll be an adult. I'll say of him, He was such an exceptional child. And I'll mean it with my whole heart.
***This post is part of Wordfull Wednesday.***