We pulled into the garage and your dad turned off the ignition. Everyone got out and went inside but something made you and I linger a little longer. It was your birthday eve – your favorite subject of the moment. “Can you believe you’re almost eight!?” I said. “This is the last night you’ll ever be seven.”
You crawled from the third row and perched yourself next to me, atop the console between the two front seats. “I can’t believe it,” you proclaimed with a sly smile. “I can’t believe that means I’ve been a mom for eight years,” I pointed out and grabbed you for a hug. “Did you know you made me a mom?” I said. “You gave me that gift.”
You held on tight – you, the kid who is always so pissed that you’re not yet a teenager, that you still have to live with mom and dad rather than on your own as a self-sufficient free spirit who answers to no one – you held on and so I did too, rubbing your back. “What a gift you gave me,” I softly repeated.
You looked at me with tears in your almost-8-year-old eyes. “Now I’m crying tears of happiness,” you said. And so was I.
These are the moments I treasure in the midst of ADHD and defiance and homework hell. In the mess of the daily grind, and anxiety, and hidden triggers that others around us can’t seem to relate to, like when you absolutely must be the last person in the gym after basketball practice, meaning that even the guy who turns off the lights and locks up better get out before you or else you’re gonna lose it.
You have moved on from calling me “Mommy” to “Mom,” from trains to skateboards, from pajamas to athletic shorts. Your feet stink, you leave the door open and you always have a ball in hand. But even behind your tough-guy persona I still catch you, though fleeting, as my first baby.
Your teacher told us this morning that you think differently than everyone else. When the assignment was to make an American flag, you refused to have yours laminated because you wanted it to ripple like the way you notice real flags rippling. When asked to create a city scene, everyone else drew buildings on paper but you had to fabricate yours in 3-D, consenting to not hang it up with everyone else’s so that your constructed buildings could actually stand up.
You are passionate and determined and quirky and individual. Sometimes the way you make everything uniquely yours can drive your dad and I batty. We try to remember it’s not about us. We try to not squash your spirit just because we have agendas and bedtimes to manage. But we’re still growing along with you.
You acknowledged recently that Autumn, whom you’ve said for maybe three years you are going to marry one day, doesn’t really hang out with you. You’re thinking maybe it’ll be Maggie or Brooke now. It’s all of course meaningless but your heart seems so fragile and sensitive. It’s amazing how at 8 you straddle the fence of tough guy and sensitive boy. And how you push and pull us back and forth with you, alternating between moments of sheer let’s-watch-a-move-and-snug-under-blankets joy and those of whatever-mom-wants-is-exactly-the-opposite-that-I-want discord.
You are one of my favorite people on Earth and I couldn’t love you more. You, who made me a mother. Who gave me that gift.