And in the last few days, I’ve found myself looking at him wistfully, trying to summon up the little boy that he was. Sometimes I can still see him but it’s getting harder. His physical metamorphosis seems to have happened overnight. His looks have changed. He’s got a slight trace of peach fuzz above his lip. His face is looking more chiseled. And then of course, there is his height. He hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet but he is already nearly as tall as me and, even as skinny as he is, he’s also catching up to me in weight.
This has also been a big year for him emotionally. Especially for a kid who doesn’t like change, loud noise or people’s disapproval. He’s pushed himself to be more assertive and stand up for himself. This is the first year of his schooling that he has had a teacher, or two, that is just plain mean or uncaring and who has been out of line. I offered to get involved with one of the teachers on his behalf and he said, “No, Mom. I can handle this myself.” And he did. Even though the teacher told him that she didn’t care.
He has also had some experiences that I know he had to push himself to have. He went out for both the middle school baseball and soccer teams. He didn’t make either team but he was okay with that. And I was proud of him just for trying. He also started volunteering a couple of days a week at the elementary school next to his middle school. He volunteers in the mornings, before his school starts, in the classroom of his, and his sister’s, former first grade teacher. A wonderful teacher with a tremendous amount of patience who understood how his 7 year-old mind worked, who challenged him and didn’t try to change the way he thought. He loves being in that classroom. He is enamored with the little kids in the class and from what I hear, the feeling is mutual.
And he is a good student. Even an excellent one. Honors math, straight A’s. I’m not a braggart but… he’s really smart. Scary smart. Smarter than me smart. He took the SATs this year, as a seventh grader, and scored almost as high as I did when I was in 11th grade. And I’ll stop there.
But he’s not perfect. The other day, he was sitting at the kitchen counter and asked me to get him a glass of water. This is something I know he does at both of his grandmothers’ homes and they gladly do it for him. But that’s different. I’m his mother. I gave birth to him by c-section after 24 hours of labor and an epidural that didn’t work. Not to mention the fact that, during my pregnancy, he stretched my stomach so far out that it’s never been the same. And I’m not getting a tummy tuck. I don’t want anyone to make me a fake belly button.
So, haven’t I done enough?
Not to mention that when he asked me for the water I was occupied doing the 20 things I am usually doing at one time: cooking dinner, unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry and solving the national health care crisis. I just looked at him and said, “You know, you’re almost 13 (I’ve been saying this for the last month along with varied requests such as make your bed, turn your fan off, bring down your laundry and take out the garbage). You need to stop asking me to do these mundane tasks for you.” He looked at me, tilted his head sideways, which is what he does when he is thinking about something, got off of the stool, got himself a cup, put ice in it and filled it up with water.
Ten minutes later, we had to leave for his baseball game. He had gathered up his socks, cleats, glove, baseball bag and a bottle of water to carry out to the car. His hands were so full that he was having trouble opening the front door. I sweetly asked him if he needed help with that and he looked at me and said, “No Mom. I can do mundane tasks by myself. You know, I’m almost 13.” Now for some kids that may have been considered fresh or disrespectful. But just the way he said it, with a slight smirk and tilt of his head, was funny. He got it. And in that moment, he seemed like a teenager. Which I guess he is. And I don’t mind if he is sometimes a little fresh. I don’t want him to be perfect.
For now, before he’s too old, I’ll hold on to the things that I can: the fact that he will still hug me but only in private, that he wants me to check on him before I go to bed, that he sleepwalks, coming downstairs where his stepfather and I are watching TV and says he can’t sleep but then doesn’t remember the conversation the next day. And I’ll embrace the teenager that he is now, nudging him towards his independence because in five years, gulp, he’ll be out of the house and in college.
I love this kid: past, present and future.