I Don't Know How To Say Goodbye To My Boy

by Wendy Del Monte
Originally Published: 
A crying boy with his head on his mother's shoulder
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty

I walked by the open bedroom door and stopped to turn off the light. As my hand reached for the switch, I glanced at the person lying on the bed and thought: That is a young man. He’s no longer my little boy, but a young man.

Wait, stop. Just for a minute. Stop. I need a second to catch up. I need a moment to say goodbye.

I know that I will let go of the child who was caught between two worlds—of boy and of teen—because I’ve done it all along. From a tiny baby whose whole body fit neatly in one hand, to a grinning toddler who went everywhere in a Captain Feathersword costume carrying either a Thomas the Tank Engine or Lightning McQueen car, to a sturdy school-age boy who ran everywhere, explored everywhere, and gave me constant heart attacks—I loved each and every stage of his childhood and motherhood, and while I looked forward to the next one, I mourned the loss of the one we left behind.

I don’t know how to say goodbye.

Just a while ago, I begged for just one more summer of what I thought was the perfect age for him. Oh, how I needed just a little more time of my little guy being little. I got my wish—one more summer of little boy madness. Then inevitably, he went on to the next stage. He grew. And I grew with him. I had no choice. It was grow or be left behind.

Even now, I see how wonderful it’s been. I see what an amazing teenager he is becoming. There are so many changes happening with him even on a daily basis. It seems like he shot up taller than my 5 feet 9 inches in a week, and suddenly he has a deeper voice and a different laugh and even different ways of thinking. We discuss politics for God’s sake, and he knows what he’s talking about. He’s growing up, moving on, and leaving childhood behind as he reaches for his full potential. That’s the plan, and I’m doing my job right because he’s already an amazing person. He will be a magnificent man.

But I don’t know how to say goodbye to the little boy.

Courtesy of Wendy Del Monte

I think that I will always miss that grinning toddler, the magical ideas of a 6-year-old, the toy cars, the #EpicForts and my little boy. Having said goodbye to each stage lets me know what I’m missing, and what I’m gaining. Oh, my boy is growing up, and it’s a wonderful, magical thing. We really do have so many adventures ahead of us.

I’m lucky that he still thinks I am cool, for the most part, or at least pretends that I am. And he still wants to hang out with me. He still is my adventure buddy, but now, he suggests adventures. He’ll leave me behind to hang out with his friends, but makes sure to come back for a kiss goodbye and an “I love you” before he walks away, regardless of who is around. He still asks my opinion and then forms his own.

Sometimes, he still grabs my hand before we cross the street. I just can’t tell if it’s to keep himself safe, or for him to keep me safe. Whatever the reason, I hold on.

Because I don’t know how to say goodbye.

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