I parked the car and then glanced over at him. He'd changed clothes in the car after I had picked him up from school but it didn't show. The new button down shirt was tucked neatly into his pants and he'd put on his belt. I looked down at his feet to make sure he'd changed into his dress shoes and he had.
"You'll be right here when I'm done?" he asked.
"Yes, I'll be right here. I brought a book."
"Ok, then," he said as he got out of the car.
I wished him luck and watched his every step as he walked away. His walk is the same bouncing walk he's had since he was a toddler, body leaning slightly forward, every step as if on springs. I would recognize that walk anywhere—across a distant soccer field and in the swell of a crowd. It is one of his defining outward traits that soothes the nervous fluttering in my chest when I'm looking for him, "Oh, there he is."
Then, I noticed that his pants were too short, even though he'd only had them for a couple of months. And I teared up. It was the pants that put me over the edge.
There is a vulnerability to a kid—especially a teenager—in pants that are too short and not fashionably so. Those pants reminded me that he's still growing, a late bloomer by most standards. He's still a kid and blissfully unaware of so many things but he's also beginning to do adult things like apply for jobs and go to interviews and make plans for a life after high school.
I saw that walk and those pants and remembered chasing him through the park, snatching him by the hood of his sweatshirt right before he bolted into the street and into the path of an oncoming car. He squealed in delight because he thought it was a game and I held him just a little tighter because I knew it wasn't. Sometimes, I feel like doing the same now, though I don't fear him running into traffic. I fear him running into life but I'm trying not to grab him by the hood anymore, trying not to hold him tighter, trying to let him make his own decisions and mistakes.
And it's hard.
Instead, I'm trying to focus on managing myself, thinking more carefully before I speak and resisting the urge to solve his problems. And I'm trying to have a little compassion for myself too. So, as I watched him bounce away to his job interview, I let the tears come without shame and repeated to myself, "Yes, I'll be right here."