Growing Up is Hard to Do

By: Shannon Ralph

Growing up is hard work. I am not sure when the status of “tween” is officially achieved. I always thought a child had to be in double digits to be considered a tween. If so, Lucas is an overachiever. At nine and a half years old, I feel like I am knee deep in Lucas tween-dom.

Lucas will be in fourth grade this year. He is one year away from middle school and I sense a shift of seismic proportions happening in my house. Lucas is changing. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. He is growing and evolving and leaping and bounding…

…and sulking. And complaining. And yelling. And whining. Yep, we’re having a good old time with our tween.

Lucas blames everything on the fact that he is tired. All the time, apparently. I assume he is going through a growth spurt of some sort. He spends half his day lying around on the couch. The other half is spent in a frenzy. His energy level swings from howler monkey to slug. There is no in between. He grows taller every day. And thinner. His feet are huge. His can wear my shoes now. New blonde hair is sprouting out of his legs at an amazing rate. His beautiful dimpled face wears a scowl more often these days. He seems frustrated. His brother annoys him. His sister gets on his nerves. He’s not as interested in playing with them as he used to be. He watches strange cartoons with Japanese titles that make no sense to me. He talks about “privacy.” He spends more time in his room. Lying on his bed. Reading.

Lucas argues now. He raises his voice to both me and Ruanita, which is entirely new. It’s not like Lucas. I get the sense that it surprises even him when he does it. I can tell by the look in his eye that his protestations are sometimes much louder than he had planned. And he always apologizes afterwards. He apologizes a lot these days. With good reason. He acts like a little shit fairly often.

When I tell him “no,” Lucas complains that I am not listening to him. I do not understand him. No one understands him. You know…because none of us has ever been nine before.

He doesn’t initiate hugs and kisses like he used to do. He doesn’t shy away from hugs and kisses, but I am usually the initiator these days. I hug him. I kiss him. Not the other way around.

Despite the changes he is going through—despite being a complete pain in my ass at times—Lucas will always be my little baby boy. I knew him when he was fresh and new to this world. When he didn’t know how to roll his eyes. When he had not yet learned to sneer at his brother. Before he developed selective hearing. When he soaked in every sound I uttered like a sponge. I knew him back when he stared at me in wide-eyed wonder while I talked to him. When he loved stories. And crayons. When he loved peas and sweet potatoes and mashed bananas. I knew him when he was untouched by this world. When he belonged to only me and Ruanita. I knew him when he was pure love incarnate. When he was nothing more than a giggle wrapped in sweet-smelling baby chub.

I fell in love with Lucas when the entire world was new to him. When every day brought new delights and a fresh perspective. When worms were the coolest things he had ever seen. When dinosaurs were “awesome.” And spiders were “scary.” When his morning cartoons consisted of Caillou and Dora and Diego.

I fell in love with Lucas when his view of the world was simple. When Mommy was good. And his pajamas were warm. And his dinner was yummy. And his stuffed blue doggie protected him through the night. Those were the only things he knew and all that he needed to be happy. I fell in love with Lucas when his world revolved around me…and mine around him.

So nothing he does at nine years old will ever change the way I feel about him. The love that sprouted almost a decade ago will persist until the end of time. He will always be that little person to me. That walking, breathing, living exemplar of love and all that is good in this world. I don’t care how awkward and lanky he becomes. I don’t care that he will eventually tower over me. I don’t care how much hair grows on his legs. Or anywhere else, for that matter. I don’t care how many times he rolls his eyes at me. I don’t care that he slams his door and calls his brother “stupid.” I don’t even mind so much that he accuses me of not listening to him, though I desperately want to hear him. To know him. It’s all a part of growing up. He is becoming himself. He is testing his boundaries. Becoming accustomed to this new, tall, lean body. Learning to navigate his way in the world as a child who is quickly becoming a young man.

I want him to know that I do understand. That I am here. That I will always and forever be his mom and his greatest fan. In all honesty, I think he grows more amazing every year. I fell in love with him almost ten years ago, but the love I felt for him way back then was a mere trickle compared to the roaring river of devotion that completely rocks me to my core every time I look at him now. I just want him to know that. I want him to understand me.

Growing up is hard on mommas, too.

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