His broad shoulders are carrying a heavy load - both in the substantial backpack he wears, and in the burden he carries each day.  I can't help but watch him and wonder -- does he see the change that is happening almost overnight?  Does he feel the growth that I see each and every morning?

I like mornings now.

Well, maybe not mornings, but I really like the time I get to spend with him.  Just he and I.  We have already created several inside jokes, and we laugh about them while the rest of the world is still dreaming.  The house is quiet.  The others, asleep.

As we drive through dark streets to his six a.m. religion class, I try not to notice the puffiness around his eyes, or the weariness on his face.  The mama in me worries, wondering how in the world he'll ever sustain this pace of 13-hour days.  But then he smiles, lights up, and tells me all about his upcoming day.  He has taken the pressure, exhaustion, and work load and chosen instead to see them as a routine that he enjoys.  A challenge.  He drives himself to do better, to run faster, to study more.

I tear up, wondering just when exactly my little boy decided it was okay to cease being just that.  I turn from him and wipe the tears, not wanting him to see me mourn for what once was.  Truthfully?  I'm prouder than I could have ever imagined I'd feel at this moment.  And I wouldn't have him any other way.

But there is a part of me that will always miss his chubby hands and toothless grin.  His Lego days, superman capes, and endless rounds of Goodnight Moon.  Skinned boy knees, all curled up in my lap.  Soft arms around my neck, and whispered I love yous every night at his bedside.

He's grown up seemingly almost overnight.  Right before my eyes, and quite without my permission.  Nobody warned me that this would happen in high school.  Nobody said that he would rise to the task, take on responsibility and seriousness with the ease of slipping into a new shirt.  I expected it to be harder, more fraught with emotion, and requiring the inevitable pain that growth produces.

Instead, he's taken life by the horns, and done so with more grace and charm than his mother has known in a lifetime.

I'm so proud of you, Mack.

I can almost forgive you for destroying the drapes in that one old house.

Almost.  But not quite.