From the other side of the house, I can hear the lock click into place as Will closes the door. And as sure as the sun rises every morning, I hear Mike get up and walk down the hallway and say, "Why is this door locked?"
As for me, I sigh and think: "Why not?" I mean it really seems to be yet another sign Will is growing up. Sure, he's only eight, but he'll quickly tell you he's going to be nine next month. (Don't put that baby in a corner!)
It seems that we are entering the stage of going from little boy to young boy. That might not sound like much of a difference ... but, as a mom, Oh, I can tell you it is!
I remember not too long ago when a house full of boys meant heated debates over Pokemon. Recently, I heard Will and his buddies discussing the upcoming divorce of a friend's parents. Then, just this weekend, another friend hit a "major" milestone by riding his bike by himself to another boy's house in the neighborhood. A sign of the times for sure.
Perhaps the real "in your face he's growing up" moment was a casual conversation we had driving along Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Will has always been determined to go to N.C. State (just like his dad).
That Sunday, as we passed the bell tower, Will told me he was having second thoughts. (I mean he's eight - he's got time, right?). When I asked him why he told me he's not sure he wants to go to college so close to home.
Then, he got me right in the heart: "Mama, I just don't want you coming to visit me all the time. I'm going to be busy. So, I'm thinking I might need to go somewhere where you can't just show up."
Ouch! So, we made a deal: If he goes to State, he can come visit us and I won't just show up at his dorm. Sounds fair.
I admit, these signs are bittersweet and, at times, they squeeze my heart like a vise. I know the days are coming when there will be plenty more of those locked doors. Thankfully, I think we have built the kind of relationship where, through conversation and mutual respect, the locks won't stay in place long.
For now though, I'm savoring the moments when he's still my eight-year-old little boy who snuggles up to me on the couch and says, "I love you mama."
Julia Sims is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mom of a grade schooler.