You call me and ask in an excited voice if you can hang out with your friends after school. Can they come over? What you say is you’re gonna come drop off your bag and then pick up your little brother from school and then hang out.
What I really want to say as I listen to your childlike voice, filled with enthusiasm:
I love you so much. I love that your voice hasn’t changed yet. I love the freckles scattered across your face, constellations mapped onto you from all your summer’s suns. I see your heart learning to be a friend, opening to being known by these boys who, like you, are in the midst of becoming something new. I miss tucking you in at night. Do you miss it? I love that you love to cuddle but would never say so.
I know it’s so hard to be in this middle- in school, childhood, our family. This liminal place. But darling, it’s really barely a beginning. I love that your pants are getting too short, but the next size up is too big, that you wear your polo shirt all the way buttoned up despite my reminders not to. I love that you love to show off your projects and interests to anyone who visits our house, how a guest may be ambushed by you wearing full camo and facepaint, hiding in the bushes. I know you will outgrow that. I love that you still let me read to you under old quilts and that the words cover us in a blanket of their own.
I know you are swimming in a sea of hormones and pubescent peers. I know you are looking, looking at them and all around for what it means to be a boy. To be yourself. To be a man. You will hear that it means to be tough and to be hard. Please stay soft. Your heart is a beautiful, wild thing. Your feelings are not shameful. You will be told otherwise. You will be told you are weak, and maybe even a sissy if you are too sensitive, too empathetic, too emotional. Please don’t believe it. Please keep your heart cracked open to the world and to yourself, to us. Yes, it will hurt a little, but it’s the only way to keep it alive.
What is say is:
Sure, but I’m going out for a walk. I’ll be back around 5.