The last day of school is today.

I took this picture at eye level, where on this last day of seventh grade they are looking right back at me. We stand here on the porch every morning, watching as they shuffle out still pushing feet into shoes, grabbing the trash and racing as the neighbor shouts “BUS!!” They try to get to the bus before all the girls, who claim the best seats. It’s funny to remember what’s annoying to you when you’re young. Bus rides are like little microcosms of family, an experience of siblings in numbers and genders that you may not have at home.

But as annoying goes, Mike and I plead guilty to a few other annoying things we’ve made our teenagers do this year:

Taking Pictures with Lenin
July Morning Hike at 4am
Les Miserables. All 4 Hours!
The Circus
Walking the Cat

The nice things is that after these annoying things are over, we all agree they aren’t really that bad.

Jake and Eli are growing in their sleep, and I can’t keep up with all the holes in their shoes or the t-shirts that seem to shrink overnight. The size of their clothes is matched by their appetite for noodles, and it’s weird to watch them destroy a liter of milk or a whole bowl of tomatoes. As new teenagers they go off with their friends at the pool, and mow the lawn without our help.

Since school has ended they probably spend too much time playing video games, but I don’t mind as much if they also find time to lay with me on the balcony and watch the thunderstorms roll in.

On these long summer days, they have swim practice 3 times a week which is a constant negotiation, and I have to remind myself every day that this too shall pass. They also occasionally fold laundry and bake things, which I view as a small victory. Jake made a pineapple upside down cake from scratch one day, and Eli turned out this beautiful batch of french macaroons.

Who are these sweet little boys, and how did they learn to do that?

The details are changing, and I worry that I’m missing something, some change that’s going on right under my nose but that I’m failing to see. I go into their room to make the bed and pick up clothes, and find myself straightening Wimpy Kid books, little toy buses, a shelf full of snow globes. There is Mommy Bear and Leafy the Elephant, a shelf full of legos and subway pillows, and their names carved onto wooden blocks. A tiny Christmas angel sits on the dresser next to a nightstand covered with yearbooks, and suddenly I’m overwhelmed by what I’m losing this summer by putting them on the plane. These little boys, will they return? Will I keep holding them? Will they want me to?

The wings are not just spreading but starting to lift, and Mike and I have a new role, not pushing or pulling, but walking alongside. Our job now is to see where they go, instead of making them follow us.

There comes a time when you can no longer be their everything, when the world offers them more than you do and your best effort is not enough. Are we there yet? I think we’re getting close. But these new arms wrapped around my shoulders may mean it won’t be as bad as I imagine. And maybe with this growing up thing, there is a silver lining in there somewhere, if I’m wise enough to see it.