Sometimes–but only sometimes–I wish I could freeze time.

Mostly those super-power wishes come when my babies are crossing a threshhold–first smiles and first steps, learning to read and learning to write, beginning pre-school or elementary or middle or (gasp!) high–eras begun or eras left behind…

…the milestones  that mark a life.

For a mother, they brand the heart, searing much more than impression.  The mother-child bond, impossible ever to severe completely, is stretched at each turn.  We know each move towards independence is a move away from us–as it should be.  Knowing that doesn’t remove the sting of the bitter in pursuit of the sweet, though, and with each stride toward maturity, we hold collective breath, close our eyes, and push those babies a littler farther from the nest.

My third born…second son…baby, graduated fifth grade last week.

When younger, he was the one I was certain would return to the womb if he could; he had an insistent need to touch me and often.  I nick-named him The Kissing Bandit because he stole smooches at will, his mask, a satisfied victor’s grin.  His kindergarten teachers called him “Romeo” and “Casanova” because of his genuine charm and sweetness, before he was too young to either know or care about why they chose such odd names.

Sharply contrasted to his big brother–all ego and bravado–he’s unpretentious but proud of his new-found (and much older sounding) distinction as a middle schooler.  I can’t help but smile to recall my post-delivery, first sight remembrance:  “He’s a SMURF!” I gasped, shocked by his blue coloring.  First breath and first cry took care of that, and though he didn’t score a perfect a perfect Apgar, he was perfect to me.

At 11, though he would dare admit it to himself and especially not his siblings or friends, his favorite toys don’t require batteries or electrical outlets and only cost dollars, sometimes less:  little rubber bouncy balls and steely magnets.  Entertaining him in much the same way a ball of yarn might engage a kitten, these are anytime toys, easily hidden in pocket or palm, ready to pull out at boredom’s invasion.

There’s an easy wonder in his eyes when he’s at play, unaware of the world around him.  Cloaked instead in imagination and delight in the ordinary, his countenance reveals what he’s unwilling to say, mischievous eyes radiating sunbeams of delight.  I find myself wishing I could channel his thoughts.

Instinct?  Experience? tells me this will be the last year he’s a Boy.  He’s comfortable in his skin right now–oh, how I hope that doesn’t change!  During our annual trip to the beach with family friends, he begged to play at the park, oblivious or indifferent to being the oldest there.  With an enviable abandon, he flipped and climbed and slid and conquered that playground, thrilled with is mastery of what used to be so difficult.

I look at him and watch this unaffected child who’s content to build sand castles for hours, attack waves as if he’s at war, and construct 1,000-piece Lego masterpieces until he gets it right.  I can’t wait to see his strengths–determination, persistence, progressive thought, patience and kindness–evolve as he grows up.

As he grows up, right before my eyes…

Because I’ve yet to discover how to freeze time.

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