The Son Also Rises look at him across the table, thinking, who is he? Who is this tall, intense, handsome, stiff, strange man sitting with me at La Provence, eating his asparagus quiche daintily as if it were made of flower pedals?

I’ve known him for more than 30 years – intimately – and I truly have not a clue who he is. It was so much easier, when he was my baby boy, and even when he was a burgeoning almost-teenager, still giving me hard hugs at night. He told me stories about his war games with his best friend back then, and his dreams of being an importer/exporter, even though he had no idea what that meant. He was chubby, with a wonderful chuckle and a dimple as wide as a dime.

That boy made me a lanyard every year during the summers he attended camp. So did his sister. Her lanyards were beautifully made – color coordinated, (pink/black/white one year; another; green/yellow/orange a third) and I loved using hers as key chains. My son’s lanyards were a bit too short and stubby, and being color blind, he’d make them in rather odd combinations – green/red/brown, or black/brown/purple. I was smart to never ask him what colors he thought they were.

To be fair, I’d use his lanyard as a key chain one month, my daughter’s the next, changing back and forth throughout the year until the next summer’s lanyards. I considered the key chains to be symbolic of their personalities. Daughter’s was tempered, beautiful, and calm. Son’s was erratic, energetic, and hard to fathom at times. difficult as my son could be as a boy – full of crazy energy, asking a zillion questions an hour and rarely satisfied with the answers, testing-testing-testing us every day, he was extremely affectionate. He insisted I read a story to him before he fell asleep every night until high school.

When he was old enough to get a job, he worked at a flower shop and used all his earnings to buy me bouquets of roses, hydrangeas, and one time a 3-foot-high delicate yellow orchid. With the next job, he bought me earrings and pearl bracelets. The last job he had in high school was at a shop that roasted coffee beans.

Even though I didn’t drink coffee, he’d bring home bags of freshly roasted beans, which smelled delicious in the kitchen.

Then, suddenly, he became a college student, six foot two, slender as a reed, but as muscled as the men on the covers of romance books. He worked out five days a week, got A’s on college papers entitled “Religious Symbols on the Work of Dutch Painters,” and was the Vice President of his “Animal House” fraternity. He barely called; e-mailed infrequently.

He’d cut our umbilical cord with an easy snap of distance and age.

Snap of a finger, and the son is now a married father of three. As we sip on our wine, he looks at me as if he suddenly sees me, a mother, a wife, a woman, a person.  He smiles hesitantly, as if not sure if it’s okay, but then suddenly lets loose a wide grin that melts my heart into mush. His eyes probe into mine, deep deep lake green eyes. They’re hard to stare into, they’re so unfathomable and questioning. 

I wonder, then, who is this son of mine, and as his mom, will I ever find out?

mothers and sons

On left, from child to man; right, but always a mom.



85 thoughts on “The Son Also Rises

  1. Very moving portrait. Our children are our very hearts…yet at the same time, unknowable. One moment we are reading stories and the next they tower over us! Beautiful post!

  2. Once they find themselves and the confidence to be themselves, I wonder if we know our children from that point. They love us but need us less and less. We aren’t the gods they once thought and are fallible which is a shock. They wonder if they ever knew us at all.
    Whatever happens, the love remains and that conquers all.
    xxx Massive Hugs Pamela xxx

    • You make a good point here, David. What our children thought they knew about us when they were children, is completely different when they become adults. Perhaps we are just as unknowable to THEM! But yes, no matter, love conquers all. xoxoxoxhugehugxoxoxox

  3. Sons are strange and wonderful creatures! I love when we still see flashes of our “little boys!” I am so excited that at 34 our son is going to become a father!

  4. Beautiful post, Pam. I don’t have children but have watched good friends’ children grow up, go to college, get married, start a family. And I think ‘how can you have a baby when I remember you as a baby like it was yesterday?’ Love the two photos of you two! 🙂

    • I was rather shocked when I first looked at our ‘then and now’ photos. How’d my son change so much, right in front of my eyes?! Whether watching your own child, or friends’, it’s still hard to fathom at times.

  5. Sounds like you and your son have a great relationship to be treasured. This was a wonderful post. We never really know our children but we know them better than most others.

  6. As someone whose oldest will be off to college in a few weeks, I really enjoyed reading this. I’m already feeling the disorientation of this transformation from child to adult. Nice to see your son come out so successfully on the other side. 🙂

  7. We watch our children grow, we guide them the best we can and sometimes our best isn’t so great. At some point we step back and let them find their own lives, get their own feet solidly underneath them. I wonder if/when they ever see us as people with our own lives. I wonder if we will ever be as important to them as they are to us.

    • I have read in many different places that no, we will never be as important to our children as they are to us. And that’s okay. I get that. Part of the joy and pain of raising children is then watching them fly away.

    • Thank you Jeanette. So hard to imagine having children who are half a century old, yet I pray that I’ll be as fortunate as you, to still be part of their lives when they reach that milestone.

  8. I have always been a reserved individual, and that encompasses many roles – work colleague, friend, husband, father, and yes – son. It’s not something I’m necessarily proud of, but it’s who I am – a very introspective and reflective individual that is not very outpouring with his thoughts and feelings in audible form. Now, written form – as you might guess – is a completely different story 😉

    But, what you bring up makes me think very differently about the situation in a very productive way. I was/am quiet. My dad too, and his dad as far as I remember. Do I want that chain of mystery to continue onward towards the next generation, or do I want to break it and encourage my own son to brave the world, and yell from the top of the mountains? I suppose it’s really up to him at the end of the day, but I can still give him that freedom and knowledge that that is an opportunity available to him.

    These are beautiful and heartfelt words with deep emotions resting between the spaces Pamela, thank you for sharing.

    • I’m so happy that my post made you so introspective about your own relationships. I think I believe now that our children are born with their own personalities, so whether we’re introverted or extroverted, loud or quiet, talkative or silent, makes no difference in how our children may be. They’ll be themselves, and it’s fascinating to watch each son or daughter unfold.

  9. What a wonderful tribute to your loving and beloved son! I treasure a hug from mine, now that he is in his 30s and in the military where they don’t give hugs! My treasures are the Christmas ornaments my children made for me each year – and the poems on Mother’s Day!

    • This gave me pause. Yes, our adult sons are reticent with the hugs, and I guess particularly when they’re in the military. Since mine has become a dad, his hugs are much more plentiful, thank goodness.
      And thank goodness for Christmas ornaments and old Mother’s Day cards. 🙂

  10. Ah nice Pam. I can relate. My son is now 28, a qualified doctor, and I see him only occasionally. It’s difficult to see them as the same person that we brought up from birth.

    • I know, I believe that our children are NOT the same people we raised from birth. Somehow, as they fly off on their own, they shiftshape into another person entirely, but hopefully with some of the same attributes that we filled them up with. After reading your latest post, wouldn’t you like to learn what Nan thinks of this subject, after raising four sons?

    • Thanks for relating to this blog. It was difficult for me to post, being so personal and wondering “am I the only one who feels this way?” But from the comments, it seems not. Hugs to you.

  11. When I’ve tried to converse and not get too personal with my three sons,they sometimes get prickly and say, “no advice Mom, when I didn’t think I was offering any. But this year all of a sudden they’re all coming to visit twice and finding helpful things to do so I won’t have to.

    • Oh, I had to laugh at your sons telling you to not give advice, and you not even thinking that you were. Priceless. Yes, I am very careful to keep my mouth shut. I read a book called “Walking on Eggshells, How to Communicate with Your Adult Children.” The title says it all. 🙂

  12. Never having a daughter I have nothing to compare. My son has always been on the quiet side with me but his written words speak volumes!!!!! He communicates through cards and text. I’m grateful he is in my life!! I really don’t know he got to be 26 so fast. Your post hit home!!!!

    • It’s so interesting how difficult our boys have in communicating their feelings via their voice, but how lovingly they can write them in our mother’s day and birthday cards. Thank goodness for that! xo

  13. pam…I remember the little boy so well…jumping from rock to rock in Yosemite–david trying to keep up with him!! I just loved this personal
    story about your relationship over the years. you both have so much
    to love about each other. xo

  14. Oh, how I can relate. Not to the specific details of the journey, but to the mother/son journey. I know him, yet I don’t. He knows me, yet he doesn’t. Our bond is unbreakable, yet it is invisible. So full of paradox…

  15. I really liked reading this post. I too, have a son and a daughter and most of time it’s difficult to believe that once upon a time they were young and so was I. Your son is indeed quiet handsome and I know that you are extremely proud of him. You can be proud of yourself as well, for being a successful parent.

    • Watching the babes we raised become adults must be the most excruciatingly beautiful sad and joyful thing a human lives through and witnesses. Thanks for you thoughtful comments!

  16. This is so touching. It’s fascinating how the parent-child relationship evolves into adulthood. At once seeing each other as adults but also still as parent-child.

  17. I often feel this way about my one-and-only offspring. How the HELL is he 35 years old? And a most awesome dad of two boys? And a wonderful, helpful husband to my DIL? And a career military man? What the heck happened? We had a lot of bumps and bruises (he’s got most of the scars, outside), but he’s the one thing I did right…all those years. Thank goodness he turned out okay, in spite of me.

    • This is beautiful, Karen. “We had a lot of bumps and bruises…but he’s the one thing I did right.” I’m quite sure your son turned out better than alright — BECAUSE of you!

  18. Pamela – I read your post yesterday and still am lost for words I could string together in a cogent and concise way in response. I don’t want them to be inadequate.

    I’ll leave it at this. I know you’ll understand.


  19. I suspect your words will resonate with every woman who has a son. I think the bond with daughters is different, letting a mother (normally, at least) understand her more and have an unbreakable connection. Maybe fathers have similar thoughts of daughters as you expressed so well with the mother/son bond?

  20. Aww, a bitter sweet ode to the relationship between mother and son (parents and children in general). It must be sad to let your son go and discover the world himself, independently. It must be even sadder when he gets a life of his own, his communication becomes scarce. But having children of his own, may have given him some insight into what parents feel for their children. He must understand. And hopefully, despite him a father of three, he can find the time to call you up and see you more often. I also notice how compassionate and unconditional you are towards your son. You don’t say that his communication is infrequent in a blaming tone, but rather you understand him.

    • Yes, such insight, Nadia. I don’t blame him for the lack of communication – I do understand. And every once in a while I get a card or a text that says, out of the blue, “Love you, Mom.” Phew. Then I relax. I think you’re right, parent/child relationships are bittersweet, but the sweetness stays the longest…

  21. What lovely reminiscing about your son and your relationship over the years. It’s fun to remember all the changes along the way – you are lucky to have each other! My son, who was also “full of crazy energy, asking a zillion questions an hour and rarely satisfied with the answers,” is turning 40 this year. Unbelievable! But my elderly aunt told me that the real shocker came when her son turned 62 and retired – oh my…

    • Oh my, indeed, but I’m laughing. Can’t imagine how we’ll feel when our sons are THAT old. Well, hopefully we’ll be alive to still ask them to call us more often. 🙂

  22. This is a beautiful reflection of your relationship with your son. I have a son and a daughter, too. It’s amazing the differences between them, which I believe are mostly gender differences.

    I really like how you smoothly summarized his growing up and all the emotion that went along with that — not just changes in him, but how those changes affected you too.

    • Thank you for the positive comments on my mom/son essay. Sometimes when it’s THIS personal, it’s harder to write clearly. Yes, I agree, gender differences make a big difference in the mom/child relationship.

  23. I still vividly remember the day my elsdest son (now 19) was sitting on the couch (he was 17) and I suddenly saw him without my Mum Eyes on and caught my breath as I realised he’d turned into a man. He was no longer a boy. And then I wondered how that happened so fast.
    I love that you have such a wonderful relationship with your son. How amazing to see them become men and fathers. Gosh.

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