The Middle Years: The Journey from Mommy to Mom


My little boy is about half-grown. He looks up at me over a tower of Legos as I write. He is suspicious — he knows I am studying him and writing things down. He looks at me with his father’s grin but his teasing laugh echoes my own. He’s got too much gel in his hair and holes in his socks. The years have brought a muscle or two and left a little hair on his upper lip. He walks around with a football in one hand and a pair of cleats in the other.

These are the middle years, the push and pull between boy and man. 

Just a few years ago I’d pick him up and wrap him in his blankie. I’d search the house for his pacifiers and his favorite stuffed animals. We would read books and work puzzles. His chubby little legs used to run when he’d see me, he would come as fast as he could and wrap his little arms around my legs.

Back then I was his favorite, I was his hero, I was his mommy. 

As the years passed he became more interested in his Daddy. He followed him everywhere. They would wander around the house with plastic tools in his little black toolbox fixing old things and building new things. He wanted boots like Daddy’s and a matching hat, too. But at the end of every day, it was still mommy he wanted to tuck him into bed. We would sing a song or two and kiss all the toys goodnight.

Back then I was his comfort, his security, his mommy. 

He grows a little taller and stronger each day. The challenges we face are more difficult and he no longer cries when I give him the wrong color plate at dinner. There are problems that ice cream can’t fix, but that does not keep me from trying. If I wrapped him up in a blanket and turned on cartoons he would probably die of embarrassment but that does not keep me from wishing I could. 

And now, I am just “mom.”

I have raised a son with a mind of his own, he is an independent thinker and he questions nearly every decision I make. He thinks he has a solution to every problem and an answer to every question. His mind is always prepared for the next mother/son debate. He thinks he knows best what a boy should or should not do and often we find each other to be quite frustrated. He no longer runs when he sees me but I still see the moments when he needs me. Sometimes it’s just to talk. Mostly about video games and football, and I pretend to understand. Usually I get a sense that he is listening to more than just my words. He is studying me too, making sure I am still the same comfort, the same security, the same mommy, even if he just calls me mom. 

While the early years were physically exhausting, these middle years are mentally trying. I wonder if I am making the right choices, if I am teaching all the right things, am I giving him everything that he will need? I wonder about the man he will become. What kind of father will he be? What kind of career will he have? Did I give him all he needed in first 11 years and how do I make the most of the next seven?

So, for today, I will sneak peeks over Lego towers. I’ll watch as he plays with his brothers. I’ll steal glances across the kitchen while he makes himself a sandwich. I will correct him when he is wrong and I will encourage him when he is right. I will miss the boy who called me mommy, who wanted fruit snacks and peanut butter crackers, but I am anxious to see the man he will grow to be. 

I hope that I will find the right balance between mom and mommy for the growing boy who is watching me.