I rubbed his back and told him it would be okay, and that he's not too old to cry. He said, "I'm not going to cry," but then he laid down on the couch and put his head in my lap, while I continued to rub his back. It was such a small gesture, the need of a little boy for his mom to make everything okay. At that moment I thought, What if this is the very last time he lays his head on my lap like this?
He may be too tough to cry anymore, but that doesn't mean I can't.
Next week is Brad's 12th birthday. He is growing up, and soon he'll be too big/manly/whatever to cuddle up with mom like this. Sure, he'll always sit next to me on the couch and let me scratch his back, but there was a childlike vulnerability today that won't always be here. We're walking the fine line between childhood and adulthood - one day he's going to stand firmly in the other camp and leave me with one less cuddly little boy.
How does this happen so fast? How do 12 years pass overnight when there are days that feel like they will never end? No scientist can convince me that time is linear - time plays hopscotch, it bounces around and doesn't ever let you catch it. Time is the ball in a pinball machine, zipping back and forth, sometimes shooting ahead and sometimes stuck in a corner, waiting for a flipper to send it off in another direction.
Brad is turning 12. In two years, he can go to church dances and EFY. In three years, he can get his learner's permit. In four years, he can start dating. In five years, he'll be taking college entrance exams. In six years, he'll graduate from high school. In seven years he'll be on his mission. I'm old enough now to know that seven years is nothing, it's no time at all. I might as well say Tomorrow he'll be on his mission, because that's almost as true.
But it's not really tomorrow. He's still a little boy that plays with Zack's legos during church and loves Hot Wheels and watches Darcey's shows on PBS. He still rests his head on his mom's lap and tries not to cry when he hurts himself. But I don't know if I can stop myself from crying when he does it, knowing that I'm watching a species headed for extinction.
Sometimes it hurts to watch your little boy grow up right in front of your eyes. My only consolation is that, if this was the very last time he laid his head on my lap and let me rub his back, at least I paid attention to it.
Join me in a little walk down memory lane. Here's Brad last month at Disney World.
Birthday 2004. He was turning 7.