Eleven.

If I had known eleven or so years ago how hard and heartbreaking this parenting gig was going to be, I would never have signed on.

Well, that’s probably not really true. But I definitely would have given it a lot more thought than, “Yeah, okay, we’ve got this.”

How arrogant. How short-sighted and silly to think I’ve got any of this.

But I can wing it. Today we’re eleven years in and I’m pretty much just winging it.

My astounding Bug, my firstborn, my gift, the one who made me a mother, who gave me this purpose larger than myself…he has no idea all this time I’ve actually just been following his lead.

This kid is magic. And because we don’t trust the magic in ourselves or in others, we sometimes try to dim it. Magic makes us nervous; magic makes us suspicious. The world doesn’t often spin so kindly.

So sometimes I try to reign him in, worried the things that make him loud and bright and big and present will backfire. Sometimes I worry he is too much for the world around him, and the world around him will force him to shrink small and fit neat.

I want to protect him. From bullies, from concussions, from sunburns, from bad grades and sore losers, from feeling out of place. But at eleven years old he doesn’t want my protection…he probably doesn’t even really need it.

Realizing my space in his life is the tide receding…that’s something fierce. It cuts deep. So I force my protection on him, with sharp words and edges because I know I am running out of time with this ELEVEN-year-old. (ELEVEN. There is no possible way I’ve already had ELEVEN years with this kid.)

When he was a toddler and glued nicely to my hip, I never thought this day would come. I mean, I figured it would but it was so hard to imagine, so abstract from the way he and I — baby and new mama — actually spent each day. “Not us,” I’d think, “we’ll still be inseparable.”

But the thing is, even as independent as he is, he still slips effortlessly back by my side. He has his own life, like every other pre-teen, but for now he still happily invites me in. We are still inseparable. (And, kid, I am clutching that with both fists; you won’t be able to shake me loose. And I’m glad you haven’t tried.)

This kid is a superstar. He is laugh-out-loud funny (even if his go-to comedy is fart noises) and whip-smart (do NOT get him started talking about professional soccer unless you have at least thirty minutes to spare) and watch out, because he is changing the world.

He is literally the best eleven-year-old I know, and he is crushing me to pieces from the inside out.

Happy elevensies, Bug. You are my very favorite boy.

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