I sat on the second row of a darkened old theater and watched my boy, my oldest boy, that boy who emerged from me 11 years ago and made me a mother. I watched in him in awe, as he pulled from reserves I did not know he had, to do something I did not know he could do. He did it with abandon and confidence and joy, and I watched him, reluctant tears flowing down my cheeks ("Do not cry, do not cry," I told myself, "11-year-old boys do not like it when their mothers cry").
But I did cry, sitting there mercifully cloaked in the dark, and I was overcome with the idea that he's not mine anymore. Not really, not the way he was when he fit in the crook of my arm. Every day he is stepping further down this road to being entirely his own person, doing things I did not teach him, excelling in things I cannot do. It is astounding.
At the end, when the crowd roared, I shouted along with them: "Bravo! Bravo!" The words jumped out of me, barreling awkwardly past the lump in my throat.
But in my heart, the words were quieter: Bravo, my son, they whispered. Bravo to you for finding what you love, and for doing it well. Bravo to you for stepping gradually but surely away from your dad and me, making your own way in this world, standing bravely on the edge of what's ahead and jumping in headlong.
Part of me wanted to whisper these thoughts to him, and to remind him that as he runs forward, we'll still be here to catch him when he falls. For surely, someday, he will fall, and certainly, someday, we will catch him.
But this is not the night for such words. There was no falling tonight. There was no need for a safety net or a back-up plan. It was a night for his star to shine so brightly that it cast light on the path in front of him. He knows just where he's going now.
It's a funny thing, how a kid can grow up light years in just one evening.
Bravo, my boy.