He walked into the kitchen while I chopped onions for dinner. He began to talk about a new video game release, and I, being distracted, gave some distant mumbles of assent.

Suddenly, he walked up to me. "Mom, you look like you need a hug." 

Then he hugged me. And held me.

He's 13, nearly 14. These last few months we've laughed together a lot. And we've frustrated each other a lot, too, scoping out our new spots in this family, in this world–he's becoming a Big Person, I'm becoming the mother of a son who needs me in a very different way than he used to.

It's exhilarating, frightening, wonderful, irritating, and hilarious. 

And so I stood there in my kitchen, at the end of a very long day in which we had puzzled each other at length, my son (my son!) holding me. Even an embrace is uncharted territory–when will my arms get used to the surreal sensation that he's a head taller than me now? I don't even always know where to put my hands.

But then my heart remembered, and my hands found their way to his back, a back that is strangely muscled and lean now. I patted him, just as I did when he weighed six pounds.

My mind scurried to find a joke to explain this sudden and unexpected moment–he loves a good quip more than anyone I know, after all. 

But the joke caught in my throat, blocked by the lump of emotion as we stood there, my hands still patting his back. We were perfectly silent, though my mind raced to capture the moment and sear it into my heart.

Remember this. Remember this.

Finally, gently, he slipped away from me. "Moment of affection now ceased," he announced, grinning my favorite cheeky grin and heading for the fridge to gulp some milk straight from the jug.

Moments like that don't cease, though, despite the boy/man's best efforts to the contrary. Those moments fill me up, fortify me for this strange new journey I'm walking. It's a journey that leaves me baffled and delighted and frightened and filled to the brim with joy at my front-row seat as I watch him become a man.

92 thoughts on “Mystery

  1. JeneeLyn says:

    My little man is only four years old and still gives hugs and kisses with abandon, but I know this won’t last forever. What a blessing this moment must have been. A reassurance that you are doing something right. I hope to receive the same someday.

  2. Laura Webber says:

    Please keep posting, I have been missing you! I cried at this post as I just delivered my second son last week and my older son is just three. I find posts like these to be very mentoring for my future with my boys! Thank you!

  3. Kim Neyer says:

    Ugh… thanks for making me CRY! 🙂 My son is only two and you’ve got me dreading the end of all the hugs and kisses. I am going to enjoy them as much as I can!

  4. workout mommy says:

    made me cry too! mine are 5, 3, and 1 and it’s hard for me to fathom that someday they won’t let me hug and kiss them. 😦 I will try and remember every single second—thank you for the reminder!

  5. Amy says:

    I’m pregnant with my second son, and you made me cry. It’s such a joy watching your kids grow up, but it’s such a trial at the same time. I guess it doesn’t ever really get easier!

  6. Megan (FriedOkra) says:

    *SOB* So sweet! I only get itty-bitty baby boy hugs and kisses now, but I’m always sad when he ceases our moments of affection and trots off to dig a hole or varoom a car. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when he’s a teenager! Many empathetic Mama hugs to you and thank you for sharing an amazing part of your NOW, which is a bittersweet glimpse of my future.

  7. Jeni says:

    Aw, man. I was not prepared for that. Big fat tears are rolling down my face. My son is 21 months old, and we call him DestructoBoy, because he is just so BUSY and always into everything. Even in my frustration, I know that today I might be plucking him out of the toilet for the 47th time, but tomorrow he’ll be a head taller than I am, giving me a hug in the kitchen.

  8. Denise says:

    *sniff* *sniff* They grow so quickly and it’s a horribly wonderful thing that they do. Thanks for reminding me of some of the hugs I’ve had with my kids that were just exactly like the one you had with your son. xo.

  9. Just B @ Love Where You Live says:

    This post will surely melt the heart of any mother of a much-loved son or sons. My only son turned 25 this year and married a wonderful girl, one we’re blessed to have in our family. He is my pride, my joy and everything a mother hopes her son turns out to be. It’s so rewarding to be there from birth to adulthood and see the wonderful “big person” that he has become. We have a very special bond, he and I. Mothers of young sons, cherish the moments you have with your them now, for before you know it, they’re off into the world and making lives of their own. Thanks for sharing this post today. 🙂

  10. Heth says:

    Oh Shannon. You don’t know how much I needed this. My boy is almost 16 now and it’s been a little rough lately. Thank you. *sob*

  11. Allison says:

    I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while, and missing it, too. This post was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. I don’t have any sons, but my oldest daughter is 10 and we’re entering uncharted territory, trying to understand each other and, at times, failing miserably. It’s hard to remember what I was feeling at her age. Thank you so much for this reminder that they’re always our little ones, even when they become Big People.

  12. Hannah says:

    Oh wow. My two year old has just started telling me, “I wub you, Mommy!” on his own accord. I know that some day, all too soon, he’s going to be wearing shoes twice the size of mine and feeling too cool to even call me Mommy, but, hopefully, still giving me an occasional sweet hug. Thanks for this post.

  13. kelli @ living in grace says:

    That little boy who co-slept with my until he was 5, curled behind my back, the back of our heads touching in sleep. I can remember rolling over in the morning, after that blasted alarm would go off having been set a few minute early to allow me the time to snuggle up behind him and breathe deep. Breathe in that wonderful sweaty smell of his hair after sleep. The same exact smell he had from the moment he was born. The same smell that comes to me when I close my eyes and drift back.
    My baby will be 17 in a few weeks. And graduating next year with honors.
    I am anything but prepared.
    So, long story short? There are alot of us going through this same time in our lives (give or take a few years) but we are here with you. Part of a lucky and blessed sisterhood sorority that is better than anything we experience in college 🙂
    Lovin’ you!

  14. se7en says:

    AAAhhh life with a teen!!! We have a 13.5 year old and all the “just wait till you have teenagers” just hasn’t rung true… he is a delight!!! It is like having a new friend in the house, yes he is changing daily, yes he is funny and earnest, always in a rush yet always dawdling!!! But he is becoming more of a friend than a kidlet… as he sprawls on the couch and asks me: “How was my day?” and really wants to know… “What’s your favorite book?” and then tells me all about his!!! Lovely…

  15. McKt says:

    Sweet tears. These precious moments to look forward to even knowing the will be bittersweet. The 5, 3, and 1 year old will get extra snuggles tonight.

  16. Shannon says:

    More sweet than bitter, I promise! There’s nothing like those baby days, but watching a boy become a man? Well, it’s the best show I’ve ever seen.

  17. Jackie says:

    Shannon- Tears here too. My son will be 13 in 3 months, and I can so relate to this post. He’s growing up right before my eyes, and I love the young man he is becoming.

  18. Karen says:

    Oh how I’ve missed your writing! Had a similar moment with my 13 yr old today. Thanks for putting my emotions into words so wonderfully!

  19. MarytheKay says:

    Oh, this is just so beautiful!! I love when we can capture these moments in our mama hearts. Just tonight, as my daughters and I were snuggled 3-in-a-row on our couch, I looked down and noticed for the first time (how is that possible??) that my oldest daughter’s feet have grown long and skinny. It took my breath away for a moment. Whose feet are those? Those beautiful dancer feet?
    My girl is growing into a young lady…
    I felt just like you–“Remember this. Remember this.”

  20. The Bearded Iris says:

    Hi – I’m new here. Just accidentally stumbled over from my friend Deanne’s blog because the title of your blog made me laugh. Can’t even tell you how many things I find in my dryer…
    So glad I found you though – I am totally crying over your “Remember this. Remember this.” Just beautiful. I so get it. That’s the secret, isn’t it… just being available for those surprise “moments of affection” and freezing the memories in our hearts. Thanks – I needed this!

  21. Jo-Lynne says:

    Wow. You describe that perfectly. And my son, now 11, who still hugs me every time he turns around, is very close to this new, unchartered frontier. Oh my heart.

  22. Tara says:

    Remember this, remember this. Good advice. My 10 year old oldest son said and did the same thing (sans the “moment of affection over” and drinking from the milk carton. Gotta remember to remember this. Thanks.

  23. Lynette says:

    Yup…Made me cry…As a mom of an 8 year old daughter and 3 boys that follow her…I appreciate you posting this so much…Thank you for sharing…as I know these moments right now are passing by way too quick…and they will become even quicker in the up coming years.

  24. Cindy says:

    I love this post. My oldest son is 17 now. I can barely get him to talk to me much less give me a hug. The other day on my birthday he remembered & texted me from school to wish me happy birthday. I got tears in my eyes when I recieved it because he remembered! Then when he came home from school I was doubly surprised that he gave me a hug & said happy birthday! Boy…that made my day & maybe even my year!!!

  25. Sharon O says:

    I don’t know where my ‘reply’ went. Oops I guess it is in cyber space. It is wonderful your son wanted a ‘hug’ as a teen. Apparently you are doing a good job, a) he sensed you were sad b) he wasn’t afraid to ask. That is huge. It does work my own son is 36 now and he has become a man to be proud of. Press on you are doing good.

  26. Teresa says:

    So now you made me cry!
    When my little guy hugs and kisses me I sometimes ask if he will still do that when he’s 16…24….40? He always says yes, so I hope and pray I will still get those moments!

  27. shannon says:

    i agree!!! Don’t cry…look forward to! It really IS fun! :0) Thanks for posting, Shannon! I have stiolen a few of these moments myself! The joy is…we still GET these moments!!!

  28. Angie says:

    My oldest is 12, two inches shorter than me-for now. . .
    It is a strange, wild journey this crazy thing called motherhood.
    Little boy one minute, exasperating teenager the next and sweet young man the next.
    I’m hanging on to every (wild) moment, knowing all too soon he won’t be mine to hold.

  29. Amy says:

    My boy turns 10 next week next week. While the years are ticking by entirely too quickly, I too love my front row seat at the greatest show on earth.

  30. Carrie says:

    Wow…that was super hard to get through. I am sitting here at work (shhhh don’t tell anyone) reading my favorite blogs and read this. My own son will turn 21 in August. There is a new sensational youtube baby that is laughing so heartily. That was my son when he was that age..I told him and he just smiled at me. He says…oh. mama I love you! We have been together most of his life just he and I waging our way through life. So many memories that are sad, wonderful, and filled with so much love! Hug that boy of yours alot! Thank you for the post and making me cry (it was good)! XO Carrie

  31. {shannon} says:

    I have a daughter, 14, almost 15, and this could have been about me and her… it’s a rough road, raising teenagers… even when they are good, good, GOOD kids there are bumps in the road. But when they reach back and love on their moms (because after all, they are still children, right?) all the bumps, frustrations, misunderstandings, and notfairness of parenting melts away… in tears this morning. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Heidi Smith Luedtke says:

    What a wonderful young man you’ve raised. So glad to share your journey as a mom. I hope my boy keeps bringing the hugs when he’s older. Right now I am tempted to freeze him at 3 because he is just so precious!

  33. heather arbuckle says:

    Wow! This just said everything that I have been pondering in my heart the last day or so. My son turned 13 yesterday, and I feel like overnight, we moved into a new season together. It’s surreal. It’s scary. It’s exciting. All at one. I was thinking about the day he came into my life most of the day yesterday. How I woke up and became a mother 3 weeks earlier than I had planned but in God’s perfect timing. And now, as he continues to grow and mature, I am marveled at the man he is becoming. This man-child whom I have been given the privilege to raise truly amazes me. And I want to savor every moment. For one day, sooner than I would like, he will be off. Thanks for this post. It truly spoke to my heart.

  34. momsjules says:

    **sniff sniff** is right! Thank-you for this beautiful post. I have a 16 yr. old son who is, at this very moment, out taking his first driving lesson(!), who will come home with perma-grin, head straight for the pantry and the remote, but who will give me a kiss on the cheek tonight when he heads off to bed and ask me to come up for “talk time.” Priceless moments we have to treasure with these teenage sons!

  35. A Maui Blog says:

    You’re alive! you’re alive! hey, I missed you! I was going to post this comment on that come back post you did but its already closed. I read blog the old fashion way – visit/click from my sidebar so I didn’t catch your return right away. Anyway, great to have you back. No pressure, blog when you can 🙂

  36. Sally says:

    I don’t have sons, but I have two daughters who are growing up so quickly. One is already an adult (she will be 21 next month and is attending college away from home and working full-time in her college town during the summers, so I don’t get to see her very often anymore.) My younger daughter is 16, and only has two more years of high school, then she, too, will be starting college. It seems like just yesterday they were both babies. Where does the time go??

  37. Kristin says:

    Thanks for sharing this powerful moment. My oldest son of 4 kids is almost 11 and I catch myself mumbling similar responses to his latest Beyblade discovery. I love what you said about scoping out your new roles. I can see that on the horizon.

  38. Morgan says:

    I’m so glad someone else cried too!!! My son will be ONE ::panic:: on April 10th and I can’t believe how fast it’s going. Last night my husband told me, “Before you know it he’ll be five and riding bikes and going on homeschool field trips, then he’ll be 16 out driving a car, then he’ll be 18 and gone!”. Thanks honey-I appreciate it!

  39. G. says:

    Oooh, this is so timely for me! I got a book on teenagers from the library this week because my 8 year old boy is acting so much like one lately! I am a bit afraid of the teenage years, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful moment, it made me cry.

  40. Theresa says:

    Just as I was reading this beautiful post, my 5 year old daughter came downstairs and gave me a big hug. She said, “I just love your hugs and I will never ever forget a single one”….our time with our kids is just priceless!

  41. Sarah Whitworth says:

    Today my 18 year old son sits in a classroom with his heart crushed by his first real love. I so wish he was 4 or 14 and I could protect him (and me a bit) from this searing pain. What an amazing blessing to see them turn into men. I feel so honored to be on the journey of motherhood!

  42. Mara says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! You captured it sooo well (except my son isn’t taller than me, yet… and I can’t write half as well as you). My OS is 13 1/4 and very much like your son

  43. Patricia says:

    Thank you for this post. My 3 sons are all in their 30s. Each one is different with their displays of affection. The youngest used to drive school bus on a route though center city that intersected my walk to work. Every day he’d open his window and holler-“good morning,mom. I love you.”

  44. Karen in Canada says:

    *so sweet*…sob.. I am living this stage right now with our 16 year old son…(who just left Mon. on a missions trip.) Love those boy/man hugs that are long and embracing and overflow with I love you even though he doesn’t speak the words now. Our 11 year old still says the words, which I cherish deeply. As mamas we have to be ready to discover the subtle new ways our awkward young men express their love. I look forward to those days when, like Patricia’s son, he may unabashedly yell out the window “Love you, Mom!” 🙂

  45. Lec says:

    let me share mine…
    at one stressful moment, running out of time, panic setting in, my daughter said ‘ma, halika, i-ha-hug kita’ (mom, come here, i’ll give you a hug)

  46. daiquiri says:

    Wow – well, that’s apparently just what my soul needed to get this good cry out that’s been choking me for the past week. Not a bad thing. My oldest boy is only 9…and yet he looks at me with the wise eyes of someone much older. He’s always reading the mood he sees on my face and in my body language and seems to have the hugs and “you’re such a good mom”s timed just right. And I….always struggling to keep a peaceful and happy look on my face as to not burden him with the feeling that he needs to comfort me. Such big hearts, these boys. We must be doing something right! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  47. Christine Beaulieu says:

    Ooooh I so know the feeling. I have a man/boy too (15 next month) it’s a whole new world.
    I’m a blogger too..and I try and keep myself at once a week posting now…often enough I don’t miss too much but not so frequent that it’s taking too much out of my week. Love your blog and glad your back. 😉

  48. Jenn says:

    OK Lady – you made me cry too! My little boy is only 22 months old but I’m already seeing glimpses of his Father, of the man he’ll one day be, in him and this post made me cry happy tears.

  49. Amy says:

    With tears in my eyes, your post just tugged at my heart. My son just recently turned 9 and yesterday gave me an unexpected and written thank you note (for organizing a great 9th bday party 🙂
    What wonderfully sweet moments there are as a parent…

  50. lynnet says:

    Oh you had me crying. Thank you so much for sharing this tender moment.
    I’m sitting here putting off ordering my oldest son’s graduation announcements and I decided to head over here to see what you’ve written this week. There have been so many times these last few years that I have looked at him and wondered where the years have gone. When he come up behind me to give me a hug and I feel those scratchy whiskers and those muscular arms that were once scrawny. Ah, to turn back the years and hold him just a little bit longer…. Tonight as I hugged my scrawny 12 yr. old, I held him just a little longer… “uh, Mom, I think you’re crushing my glasses…”

  51. Aimee says:

    Magnificent post, Shannon. He sounds like a sweet young man, but how could he be that old already? Leaves me shivering to think of a time when my six-year-old is 13. Goes by so fast…

  52. Shannon says:

    Thank you for saying that, dear Sandy. I know the teenage years have their challenges, but so far, I’m enjoying my 13 year old boy more than I ever have, in his whole life.

  53. Adena says:

    Oh my! You made my eyes water. I am RIGHT there with you now!! My oldest son turned 14 last December and it is definitely a whole new world that we are both trying to feel our way through. He used to, without fail, come find me as soon as he woke up, hug me and say “Good morning mommy, I love you”. Every morning without fail, until he was about 13 1/2. I miss it soooo much and every once in awhile he will still do it, hug me and say “I know you miss that don’t you?”. sigh. wish they could stay toddlers forever sometimes. ummmm maybe not. As soon as I typed that my toddler is yelling for me to come wipe him. oh well.

  54. Lenore Buth says:

    Shannon, you captured this phase of mothering perfectly. Our four girls are adults now, wonderful women and my best friends. But I remember well the feeling of being on a “strange new journey . . . ”
    I think being a mom consists of endless new journeys, because we’re ALWAYS in unknown territory and figuring it out as we go. For me, that keeps me humble and praying, that is to say, growing. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
    Glad you’re back, Shannon. You write beautifully and I love your sense of humor.

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