He stood by me in the bathroom, sharing the mirror at 6:45 am. He was engrossed in combing his hair, the back of it sticking up like a rooster’s tail. He grumbled about the hair, using various products to try to get the unruly strands to just do what he wanted. When he was born with straight hair, I had thought maybe he hadn’t inherited the unruly hair I’ve lived with my whole life, but genetics outsmarted both of us. Mindful of his elbows, I stood on my side to do my makeup. As I grabbed my eyeliner to get started, I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at him. He towered over me now. He had grown to be the tallest person in our house at just a week shy of 16. He sounded like a grown man, and from the next room I often thought it was his father speaking.

I couldn’t help but see the years leading up to that moment. He was born looking like he was 3 months old. In fact, he always seemed older than he was. I saw that sweet toddler, testing out the word “pumpernickel” and laughing in hilarity. Someone once asked him to name his favorite animal and at age 3 he thoughtfully answered, “A puma”.

He always understood my jokes, and much like his father, you either loved being around him or you’d rather he go somewhere else to deal with his mood before interacting with you. His insatiable thirst to know how things work and educate himself had created a driven, intelligent young man. I couldn’t even begin to predict what he would do with his life, because I’d hate to limit it with my own imagination.

He had started waking up at 5 am to have alone time and finish up his homework. He was now drinking coffee. Every night I premade a pot for the morning and he woke up and drank it. Then he remade the pot so I would have a fresh one when I got up. He’d had his driver’s permit for the last two years and constantly drove me around town for practice. We had a routine and a rhythm that was unexpected but delightful.

He had recently applied to go to a boarding school that focused on Math, Science and the Arts. We just heard that he made the semi-finals to go. If they were smart, they’d realize they would be lucky to have him. I wanted it so badly for him because he wanted it so badly for himself. As he set his own personal goals and worked so hard academically, it seemed like the sky was the limit for him. Oh, if he got in, sure he would be home in the summer and for winter break, but things would certainly change around here.

The crazy thing was that we worked so hard in parenting to help our kids become independent. Then they started getting independent and ready to go, and that was a hard reality to grasp. Thomas was almost ready to fly the coop like the rooster his hair was imitating that morning. I grabbed a Q-tip and dabbed the water out of my eyes so I could actually put the eyeliner on. I just stood there, secretly soaking in the time with him, while he was there for me to enjoy.

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