on growing up

Kids will be kids. Until they aren’t. And when does that process begin? Each milestone from their first giggles and steps to riding a bike and everything in between prepares our children for the path to independence, and eventually (or rather, inevitably) adulthood.

On Saturday, Jack flew to San Francisco to spend a week with his grandfather. This trip was born out of a teary declaration he made several months ago that went something like this:

Jack: Mommy (sob, hiccup) I’m an adventurous spirit (sob, hiccup) and (sob, hiccup) I just realized (sob, hiccup) I’m never going to get to slay a dragon.

(Yes, the poor child inherited my flare for the dramatic.)

Dragons might not be real, but cross country flights are, so I quickly arranged with my dad for Jack to fly out to San Francisco the last week of summer vacation. (Yes, we start school on August 20th.) At the time, the trip seemed so far off. But before I knew it, I was driving him to the airport and watching him as he pulled his own suitcase through the terminal. As if that weren’t grown up behavior enough, as we waited out the delay, he asked if he could have a decaf coffee. It felt like a landmark moment, sitting there at the Starbucks drinking our lattes. For the record, I now have a decaf vanilla latte with whip fanatic on my hands.

If he was scared or nervous, he didn’t show it, but I was roiled inside. All my own flying angst was multiplied by infinity, but I knew I couldn’t show it. I was light. I was airy. We joked. We bought extra books just in case he finishes Lord of the Rings. An hour and a half after our schedule departure time came the call to board unaccompanied minors. He gave me one last hug and walked away with the gate attendant without looking back once.

Me? I collapsed in a heap of tears for the next 45 minutes while waiting (as I was required to do) for his plane to be in the air.

Was I scared his plane would crash? Oddly, no. Was I afraid he wasn’t going to have a good time or that my dad wouldn’t take care of him? Absolutely not. But more than how I expect I will feel with his first shave, first love, or the deepening of his voice, watching my little boy march bravely toward an adventure without me struck a chord deep inside my mommy core.

He’s always going to be my baby, but he’s growing into such a little man.