a letter to my son on the occasion of his 12th birthday
My oldest son started seventh grade Wednesday. Pedaling down the street on his bike to all points middle school, he stopped at the corner, turned around, and waved to me as I stood at the end of our driveway, where I stood attempting to be nonchalant, per his request. I was delighted he remembered to wave because he and I have made the school day wave a ritual since the bike he rode came standard with training wheels. For years, most of these mornings involved so many waves I'd have to finally stop and signal him to carry on, that his apparent love for me, while appreciated, wouldn't be the best excuse for a tardy. Today was a one and done kind of morning.
We've come a long way since he was 5 and preschool drop-offs were a special recipe of his tears of perceived abandonment blended until smooth with a heaping scoop of my guilt, and that's fantastic because this boy of mine also turned 12 years old Wednesday, and if ever he cries now, he certainly doesn't want anyone to witness the myth of his cool demeanor tarnished by salt water saboteurs. However, a few of those no gooders may have rappelled down my cheeks while I was watching him take the corner en route to school.
Twelve years ago, I sat on a couch for hours with this boy's tiny tush cupped in the palm of my hand, reading him books and promising him the world, and by some freak of science or the audacity of time, he now occupies the bulk of that sitting space when he sprawls out on it. Helping me up from said couch last week, the top of his head grazed my chin, and he cheered "I'm almost as tall as you now!" "Unacceptable!" I countered.
Unavoidable, too, I suppose.
My son is fearless. He wants to barrel down roller coasters and jump out of airplanes, whereas I like to pace the nice, solid, low to the ground kitchen floor and fight the urge to say no when he asks if he can ride his bike uptown to get ice cream with friends. I want to say no, but I say yes because we've reached a point where I'm supposed to. "Spreading their wings" is what I think they call it. While talking to my Mom yesterday, I mentioned my son had ridden his bike to school. "YOU LET HIM RIDE HIS BIKE!?!" she yelled at me. "He'll be alright," I responded, not yelling. As she ticked off her concerns, my head was singing "Your concerns are my concerns, too," but I just kept repeating "He'll be alright. He'll be alright. He'll be alright." The irony of my thought wasn't lost on me considering last week, I nearly assigned him a PowerPoint outline of 20 reasons why I should allow him to cross a busy intersection to go to the bowling alley. He'll be alright. I can't always be the one making sure of that, but I have to trust that he'll ensure it.
Because 12 years ago, I sat on a couch and promised a little boy the world, and every day this boy - now all angular lines, sharp edges, and filled with delight at the thought of being almost as tall as his parents - has been inching his way out into it even more. "Sometimes people don't always think things through and end up making the wrong decisions, don't they, Mom?" he asked me out of the blue a few weeks ago. His question made me smile for this is a boy who regularly needs to be reminded that underwear and socks shouldn't live to see another day, but I decided to use that moment for one of those teachable moments grown ups get to have with kids, and when we were finished and he seemed satisfied with what we'd discussed, he turned back toward the car window to stare out at the world.
Labels: why walk when you can fly