The Boy-Man

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Bradley Robertson

By Bradley Robertson

When my children were babies, it seemed as though they would stay that way forever. I woke day and night nourishing their little bodies and doing all I could to make them smile and laugh and keep them safe.

As they grew into toddlers and then on into kindergarten, still, I thought this time would last forever. Until one day recently, I found my wild, big-grinning, eldest son standing taller than me, looking me in the eye and I thought, “What happened to my little boy?”

He now picks me up when he hugs me. He drives solo around our farm, and when I’m feeling stressed he says things like, “Mom, I love you more than you’ll ever know,” to which I quickly respond, “I promise, I love you more.”

So many things are missing from my once small, red-haired boy and yet, hundreds of wonderful new things have begun. He is a boy, growing into a man, right before my eyes.

One of Braxton’s first words was “plow.” Is anyone surprised at that? I still remember the day he said it.

He was riding the tractor upon his father’s lap at one year old, breaking ground to prepare land for planting cotton, the plow trailing behind. Braxton was a squirrel in the tractor at this age, not able to sit still, too intrigued by all the moving parts and pieces. The steering wheel, the big tires, the dirt being pulled up from the earth, the plow in motion and his father’s hand doing all it could to hold the babe still.

“Plow. Plow. Plow,” he spoke to his father from inside the cab.

The farmer soon stopped the tractor to let the little fella out.

“Listen to Braxton’s new word,” he said. And pointing back toward the tractor he asked, “Hey Braxton, what’s that over there?”

“Plow. Plow.”

Braxton grinned with his whole face, and the farmer and I laughed at the novelty and beauty of such a small word.

This same small child is still dwelling in the large boy he is today. I look into his eyes and still see the mud on his little face and his childish grin of joy and satisfaction. I can still hear his cackling laugh that disappeared somewhere around early elementary school and I still recall his gusto and strength when riding upon his horse, Duke, at just 8 years old.

The boy-man. Still small deep in his soul but growing and seeking something new.

Who remembers the old song ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ by Stealers Wheel?

This giddy folk rock song rings in my ears and I laugh. I see me and my son walking this road together; the only exception is that we aren’t stuck at all. We are moving and wandering this weird road of life side by side.

Adolescence. Peer pressure. School. Pandemic. Media. Politics. Farming. Work. Soul. Body. Life.

This is a plate full of unknowns and scattered thoughts. How will he learn to do all this on his own? How do I even begin to parent this?

I have no real, earthly answer. I have only come up with a holy one… Do not walk away, but step into that which matters most. In this case, my son.

Every little accomplishment, I will step in. Whatever is hard, I will step in. Whatever joy is to share, we step in. Whatever the concern, we will step in, together. I will not walk away from the blessing of seeing life transform. From boy-child to man, learning to navigate his own life.

As mothers, we tend to want the always pleasant and beautiful, but I now know that it’s the hard paths we walk with our children that bring us together. It’s the not giving up and lifting up. It’s the tears that turn into long talks and hugs. It’s the fear that we wash away with faith and unconditional love. It’s all the joy, joy, joy that far outweighs any indifference.

Seasons come and go, as we all know, and this season with my son I will never forget, for we made it through and hugged a lot and we grew up a little more, together.

Braxton is no longer a silly squirrel upon his father’s knee. He is brave and strong and determined. He waves at me, grinning while driving a tractor, and I think, “This young man is exceptional, and there’s no other place I’d rather be.”

Whatever you face this day or in days ahead, I encourage you to step into it instead of away. If joy is on your sleeve, step in. If tears or anger, step in. All the pieces of life are important; they help us become who we are meant to be.

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