As I sit in my office brooding about a mistake I made my thoughts suddenly drifted to Thing 1. He is the oldest and we've had a lot to work through over the years. School is hard for him, be it because he has to focus or because there are no video games, so he struggles everyday with going to school. We have the same fight every morning where he begs and pleads and tells me how dumb school is. Then I eventually get him and The Baby into the car to take him to school. I drop him off at school since the bus is no longer cool. And for the last 5 years when I take him, I tell him I love him before he gets out of the car. This used to be met with an "I love you too" before he walked away into the land of future adults. I knew with every passing day it might be the last time I heard him utter those words on school property.
Monday was a rush to get to school on time and look like a real responsible adult. On Monday, when I said I loved him and he just got out of the car and went into the school. The slightly pathetic person in me reasoned that he must not have heard me. On Tuesday, the same thing happened and the voice in my head that gave me so much comfort the day before was not as loud. Today I realized the day had come and gone for "I love you's" in public. I am so happy watching Thing 1 turn into a very strong and wonderful young man, but now that the "I love you's" are no longer free flowing I begin to miss that little boy.
When I used to pick him up from daycare he would launch himself into my arms and hug me so tightly. Some of the staff would just watch in utter amazement that a mother and son could be so happy to see each other after a very short 8 hour day. Someone even commented on us being their favorite child/parent duo because it never got old to see him launch his tiny body with all his might into my arms. It was the very best part of my day to see how happy he was to see me. And just as those days came and went (mostly without me stopping to realize they were gone) here I am struggling with the reality of him growing up even more.
He still loves me, this is something I know and even the pathetic side of me knows, but he has reached a point in his life that he doesn't display that love to the world. He doesn't count the minutes until he sees me again. He doesn't think of his mom as the same hero I must have been in his younger years. Maybe it's part of becoming a big brother. He has to let go so I can have open arms for The Baby to fling himself into. Or maybe he's just old enough that public opinions are too highly regarded (I thought I had until middle school, not 4th grade). Maybe, maybe, maybe... I am so happy I have the memories of the independent boy who didn't care if his friends heard him tell me he loved me, but I'm also happy for his steps into the land of true independence. He grows everyday and though I got my last public declaration of love from him, I know deep down he still feels the same. So I will continue to tell him I love him and when those words aren't returned I will be ok. Because he does love me, he just doesn't love me out loud anymore. He loves me from the inside where his friends can't see and tease him.