Monday, May 12, 2014

Slipping Through My Fingers

A few weeks ago I allowed my oldest son to walk to a new friend's home to play. Even though he was in our neighborhood and I was watching him from the upstairs window the whole time, he did have to cross two streets. I watched him skip off, stooping down to check out a rock or pick up a leaf, looking first right, then left, then right again before running across the street. He arrived in his friend's driveway and I watched his friend's mother smile at my son, taking over my watch.

Last month my oldest son arrived in the kitchen after exiting the bus all a twitter with the news that he and a few friends from the bus were forming a singing group. He spent the next few days writing songs, the bulk of which was actually pretty good. Two weeks ago he was working with a different group of friends to clean up the playground for Earth Day. He made flyers, created a list of what needed done and recruited helpers. I have no clue if he actually picked up any trash. But he looked good on paper!

He can ride his bike without me standing in the driveway,watching. He isn't allowed to cross the street or go all the way around the block, and he has to come back and check in every so often, but he is out there, alone. And I am in here, totally freaked out. I hover in the kitchen, hoping to catch a glimpse of his bike helmet over our back fence. I pace to the front door, watching for him to ride past the house. I pray. "Please keep him safe. Please help him to make smart choices when he is out there without me."

There are times now, in just the right circumstances, that I will let my Soaring Seven Year Old go to the bathroom by himself in public. Not everywhere. (Not at, say, Walmart. NEVER at Walmart.) I have taught him how to speak to a server and order his own meal. We have given him lessons in manners and purposely provided him with opportunities to use his newly acquired skills. We have modeled and praised and gently corrected. Yes, we are raising a super smart, very inquisitive, straight A student, but raising a man, raising a person of substance, is what is really important to me.

Last night my husband's extended family got together at a nice restaurant for a Mother's Day dinner. My Soaring Seven Year Old sat at the other end of a very long table, laughing with his cousins. I sat with my sweet husband and sisters and brothers in law, with my newly minted and very sleepy five year old on my lap. It took every ounce of strength I had to stay in my seat and not hop up to make sure all was well down there. He sat in his seat, wearing a bright yellow golf shirt and khaki shorts, his black hair somewhat spiky and his dark brown eyes sparkling. I watched him chatting with his cousins, all around his age, give or take a few years, all boys. I watched him order his drink, and then read the menu, ordering his own meal. I wanted to ask if he had said "please" and "thank you", but I stayed quiet. I wanted to leap up and move his cup of chocolate milk away from the edge of the table, but I didn't. And the cup stayed in place. I watched him eating a fruit salad and then pizza. I wanted to jump up and cut his pizza, reminding him that the plate would be very hot. But I didn't. And he was fine. He waited for his food to cool and then he did just fine pulling the pieces apart. He laughed with his cousins and grandfather. He stayed in his seat. He came over to me to ask if he could use the restroom and, once, just for a hug. (dear sweet boy, he missed me!)

The server complimented us all on our well mannered boys. This is what it can be like, I thought to myself. This is where our future is going. And it was nice. I was able to eat without the weight of his seven year old body pressing into me. I was able to talk to other adults. But as nice as it was, and as proud as I was of my oldest son, a part of me was sad. I am watching my baby boy slip through my fingers, as he grows into the man I had prayed he would be. I held on to my youngest, my tiny Frustratingly Fantastic Five Year Old. He will not go so easily into independence. He will need more guidance, a watchful eye for much longer. It is exhausting to think about, really. But last night, as I watched my oldest son navigate his world without me, I held on a little tighter to my youngest. Before I know it, he will be slipping through my fingers as well.

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