Every night I tuck Cole into bed. Now that he is growing up, I kiss him on the forehead. When did I quit kissing him on the lips? After he is asleep, I sneak back into his room to say good night one more time. I am always amazed at how grown up he has become. His long skinny legs reach the footboard. His even longer arms dangle down to the floor. Behind his crazy curly hair, his face is maturing.
So much of Cole is me. Physically he looks like my child from the long and skinny limbs to the expressions on his face. Emotionally he is my child too. So much of our personality is the same. I often struggle to separate him from me. I assume his response will be the same as mine without giving him the chance to react on his own. Often times it is the exact same. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes I do too much to try to protect the child in him. I shield him from the world because it’s my way of protecting me. It’s not good for Cole. I’m learning to step back.
Last week he came home with a packet to run for SCA treasurer. He was committed. He worked on his speech. He went through the yearbook to guess who would vote for him. I found myself wanting to protect him. Two years ago he was uncomfortable with the attention he got while we sang Happy Birthday that we never sang to him. His nerves can get them best of him. In my mom-brain I wanted to ask so many questions: are you sure? you have to get on stage in front of a lot of people? you may not win? chances are you won’t win since seven other kids are running. I kept quiet.
That Thursday he turned in his speech. I got a phone call from his teacher. Another boy had already turned in a speech almost identical to Cole’s speech. They wanted him to rewrite it. I just knew he would be crushed. I knew he would throw in the towel and decide he really didn’t want to run for office. He would be crushed. When I picked him up from school that day, he was sad. He was sad that he couldn’t share the speech he had worked so hard on with his classmates. That night he surprised me. He wrote another speech.
Over the weekend, he created campaign posters. On Monday night I asked him to practice his speech. He got two sentences into his practice, and he decided he didn’t like it. He wasn’t going to run for treasurer anymore. It was his bedtime at this point so I sent him to bed. On Tuesday, he was ready to try again. He practiced his speech. He decided he did like it.
This morning, in front of the 3rd and 4th grade, Cole got up on stage and gave his speech. While he waited, he chewed on his nails. His legs bounced up and down. When he got up for his turn, his nerves seemed to disappear. He didn’t read it too fast. He didn’t use his crazy nervous voice. He delivered his speech, he sat back down, his eyes found mine in the crowd, and he smiled. He did it.
I’m spilling over with pride. I won’t know if he won or lost until this evening, but I really don’t care. My Cole, a child who has struggled to find a place of comfort in his world, shined today. It took a lot for him to get up there, to be brave and conquer his fear, to risk failure, and to let all of his classmates see him. It’s these moments in parenting where I feel like I’ve done something right. I’ve made all the right choices for him. I’ve given him the love he needs to have the confidence on days like today. It’s these moments that remind that the best way I can parent Cole is to step back and let him guide me. He isn’t me no matter how much we mirror each other. I’ve given him roots and a foundation for life. I’ve passed on DNA for his appearance and his personality. But he is his own person. He is Cole. It’s time for me to let him shine too.