Something upset my son recently, and it took me rather by surprise. None of the usual suspects were to blame, like me snooping through his iPhone, or subjecting him to my passive-aggressive parenting techniques (yet again!) or me nagging him to put his dirty clothes in the hamper for the bazillionth time.
What propelled him into a moody funk was something quite small, measuring merely one-quarter of an inch.
When the nurse measured his height at his yearly physical the other day, it was confirmed that he is a full 1/4 inch taller than me.
Yep, my baby, my one and only, the love of my life, was officially taller than his mom.
I can attest to the fact that all the clichés are true – kids grow up so fast, don’t blink or you’ll miss it, the days are long but the years are short. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I reveled in his squeals of hysterical delight as I pretended to be the Cookie Monster, munching on all his delicious little cookie toes? Today you couldn’t pay me enough to go near those very non-cookie smelling feet, but I digress.
Actually I’m kind of excited that soon he’ll probably be quite a bit taller than me – any day now I can retire the step stool I use in the kitchen to reach stuff in the high cabinets; I’m always tripping over that damn thing.
But while I was figuring out all the ways I could use his height to my advantage, it turns out that his view on this recent development was less than positive.
When I called him for dinner later that day, I found him in his room going through a pile of Matchbox cars that hadn’t seen the light of day in years – not really playing with them, but just turning them over in his hands – considering them.
“Honey, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Nothing. Just visiting my childhood” he answered.
Ugh. Smelling the angst in the air, I asked him what was up.
“I don’t want to be taller than you” he said quietly.
“That’s what’s bothering you? Not wanting to be taller than me?” I responded.
Shrugging his shoulders, he said “I guess I’m just not ready to grow up.”
Ah, there it was. He wasn’t considering the cars. He was considering what they represented. The journey to grown-up is a bumpy one, and you never know what might trip them up along the way. Just as my heart swells with pride and love and joy for my teenage man-child, right then it ached with the growing pains he was experiencing, perhaps more child than man at that moment.
“It’s okay to feel this way; there’s a lot going on with school and friends and other stuff, and sometimes it’s nice to think back to when times were simpler. We just have to talk about it when you’re feeling this way, okay? “
Having witnessed enough push-up and arm-wrestling contests to realize that we’ve arrived at the competing-with-dad portion of the program, I attempted to lighten the mood by asking, “Well, how are you going to feel when you’re taller than dad?”
Brightening at the bait he said, “Oh no, that’s different – I can’t wait to be taller than dad!” Who, by the way, is considerably taller than me – I guess logic doesn’t play well with puberty!
Being one half of a mother/son bond equation himself, I sought my husband’s perspective when I told him about our exchange later that evening. He wasn’t surprised at all by our son’s reaction. Raising his hand up over his head, he explained, “Because in his eyes, you’ll always be up here.“ :)