When they’re little, you are everything. They climb onto you when they feel sad or tired. They reach out to you with their soft arms because they want to get out of the crib. Because they want to be safe. Because you are the center of safety.
When thunder rumbles across the sky in the darkness, their little feet find their way to your bed. When you wrap your arms around them, they fall back to sleep, so quickly you aren’t even sure they were ever awake. Because you are the center of safety.
But then, faster than you think, you’re not their whole world. You’re a piece but not the center, and somehow, your baby who was an extension of you becomes their own person with his own dreams.
Sometimes what my son needs isn’t me.
Sometimes he needs his friends.
His friends who want to play endless games of tag, who want to play good guys/bad guys, who want nothing more than to run for hours.
Sometimes he needs his teachers.
Someone who will explain the concept in just the right way for him, a way I hadn’t thought of, or a way that wouldn’t work anyway because he’s just not going to listen to me.
Sometimes he needs to be alone.
A space all his own where he can play a game that isn’t micromanaged by anyone, a space to read a book or write a book or dream his own dreams, that aren’t partly mine.
Sometimes I don’t understand him. I don’t know what he needs or what he wants, or why he’s angry, or why he’s sad. His feelings aren’t simple anymore.
“Go take a shower!” I say to him after dinner, when his energy is still overwhelming, or when he seems angry, when I think he needs a little time to chill out. I laugh to myself because I realize I’ll probably repeat this phrase thousands of times to him as he grows.
But then sometimes…“Will you just stay upstairs when I’m in the shower? When I’m alone, I’m a little bit scared.”
I follow him.
Because even though he may not always need it, I’m still there. And he knows it.
Just in case, what he needs…is me.