So, my older son will be thirteen on Monday. I just can’t believe it. Just recently, I watched home videos of him as a baby and a toddler, and could barely remember that little scratchy voice saying “mama” and his little hands as they were reaching up for me.

I know that for most people, seeing their children getting older is bittersweet.  You so want to hold on to that little person, who was so dependent on you and who thought you were the center of the universe.

I made a plea, though, when my son was just three. Ten years ago. “God”, I said. “Please let me live long enough to see Michael go to Kindergarten.” If you do let me live long enough to see it, I promise to enjoy him and to live life to the fullest and to be the best mother I can be.”

Although I was too sick to go to Michael’s kindergarten orientation, I was well enough to see him off on his first day of school. Some of the other mothers sending their kids off to kindergarten for the first time were crying. Not me. I was smiling from ear to ear. I made it. I saw it. I lived it. Thank you, God.

Then, of course, there were more prayers. “God”, I said. “Please let me live long enough to see my baby, Jack, go to Kindergarten.”. If I am blessed to live long enough to see that, I will be grateful, humble and not take a second for granted.

So, when the big yellow bus (Big Bird, as my dear friend Laura calls it!) came three years later to pick Jack up, once again I was happy. He turned, smiled and waved and my heart gave a leap. I had done it. I had given my sons a foundation to go out into the world with. Given them the unconditional love and affection they needed to be empathetic, practical, friendly and loving.

I had also taught them that no matter how tough the going got, they had to keep on going. I am a true believer in teaching by example. That’s how my mother taught me. That’s how I strive to teach my boys.

I realized that there was a shift in my thinking by the time Jack got on that bus. No longer did I feel like I couldn’t think in terms of maybe a year or so into the future. I started to be able to project further.  A little. It was still short term but, definitely longer. I could imagine Michael being in Junior High and having a girlfriend. I could imagine Jack starting Middle School.

And so, here we are. Michael is going to be thirteen on Monday. I couldn’t be happier. Sure, he is a moody handful and giving him a kiss in public is completely out of the question and there are days when I wonder if he even likes me, let alone loves me but, I feel like the luckiest girl alive. Because I am alive.

I can picture him driving, going to the prom, getting married. I can picture visiting Jack at some school where he is playing football and having keg parties. I picture Al and I old and gray. I picture life, and all that comes with it.

Until there has been a time when you can’t picture those things, you simply can’t realize what a gift it is to be able to. Unless someone who has been through it tells you – consider yourselves told.

God truly did answer my prayers. And, I have done my best to live up to my end of the bargain. I am not perfect. I have bad days. But, bet your ass I get up the next day and strive again to enjoy all of the sweet moments that make up my life. The hard ones are hard, for sure. During those times, I focus on the fact that I have my beautiful support system of family and friends to see me through.  I am also thankful for my constitution, which I have learned is pretty damned strong.

So, all of these milestones, for me, are just sweet – without the bitter. I am glad to be here to see every stage my children go through and every experience they have; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Again, I wish the same for you, my friends.

Image  Wow – THIRTEEN!