I might not typically take much notice of the boys outside the coffee shop I’m in, around eleven years old, eating caramel covered apples and hitting each other with wads of paper. But today when I saw them I saw my own son and was struck by the fact that soon enough he will be eleven, and then eighteen, and then a full-blown grown-up. He is only seven and a half, but I know it will come faster than I can believe.
I get glimpses each day of the man he will someday be peeking through the little boy he is now. When he rolls his eyes in annoyance, or carries in a bag of groceries for me, or wears boxer briefs instead of his hot wheels undies. Or when he looks at me with his green-blue eyes and says in all seriousness “I want to go on a date with you.” We do that sometimes. Our “dates” can be anything – any activity that only includes us. Once to a museum, after which we got ice cream, once on a walk, after which we got ice cream, once to the doctor’s office and grocery store. After which we got ice cream. He and Marc go on dates too, and it also always involves a treat. Surely that is part of the draw for Luke. But he also loves the chance to spend one-on-one time with his mom or dad, getting all the attention, all the head pats, all the hand-holding he wants. He actually wants to be with us, and it’s great.
We had a particularly fun summer – mornings together while Lily was in preschool and Mae was asleep. I made a concerted effort to ignore all the things that “needed” to be done and spend my time on the things that truly needed to be done. For my son. I chose making gloop over dusting and doing science experiments about carbon dioxide over vacuuming. It was awesome. My house was gross, but my relationship with Luke deepened, and as I’ve heard countless times, in twenty years that’s what will matter.
Plus, gloop is way more fun than dusting.
I know that a day is coming when he won’t want to go on a date with his mom. There will be a phase, and that phase could be long, where he thinks I am lame and uninformed and embarrassing. I remember those days with my own parents. I once hid on the floorboard of our brown Chevy at a Sonic, because, horror of horrors, I was there with my parents. And I knew the car hop. And he was hot. My dad proceeded to tell the hot waiter that I was hiding in the bottom of the car and I was forced to emerge, red-faced and scarred for life. Nice, Dad. But how embarrassed could I have been to hide like that rather than be seen with my family? Very, I guess. I hate to think of Luke feeling that way about us, but it will come. And it will suck. And then it will pass.
Luke started second grade today. I walked him the two and a half blocks to school, taking in the sunlight, the welcomed cool air after a ridiculously hot summer, the tingling excitement that comes with a first day. I watched neighborhood kids reunite after two months apart, giggling with nervousness and joy, and I thought of his first day of kindergarten. We have a picture from that day of him walking, proudly wearing his new astronaut-monkey backpack full of school supplies, his hair combed and clothes unwrinkled, ready to leave me and his early childhood in the past. That was a hard day. Today he wore the same backpack, but I noticed on the way that his hair wasn’t combed and realized we’d forgotten to buy glue. And we weren’t really worried. So different than that first, first day. It’s already normal to go back to school. It’s also normal to get a big kiss from me as he heads in to class, which I know will change soon.
I’m sure these boys outside the coffee shop wouldn’t welcome a big kiss from their mommy as they joke with their friends. I can hear the “Geez, Mom” now. It’s not too far off, this next stage; the eye-rolling is just the beginning. I will miss his hugs, the fact that he thinks I’m funny, and even the never-ending descriptions of his lego creations. I will look back longingly at the days of making gloop in summer and going on dates to get ice cream. I know I will cry over the loss of my baby boy many times. But it will also be astounding to watch him navigate adolescence, discover himself and the world, and morph into a man. When I think of the way he fit into the crook of my arm when he was new to the world, and now he reaches my chest when he gives me a hug, my mind is just about blown. So far I’ve enjoyed each stage, at least in part, and I’m sure that even in adolescence there will be something to appreciate – bits of my sweet boy peeking through the tough exterior of puberty. Or of his future, mature self emerging. I can’t say that I’m ready, or ever will be, for Luke to think his mom’s a dope, but I’m gearing up for it. And if he happens to want to go on dates with me all through puberty, I’ll consider it a bonus and take him out for ice cream.