Monday, August 31, 2009

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Brick

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that I was growing up too fast. She also used to tell me she was going to tie a brick to my head so that I wouldn't grow anymore. As I grew even older and taller, she'd lament that she hadn't used the bricks, telling me she was going to order me to fail all my classes in school so that I would never graduate and move away. Through all her sentimental protestations, I simply rolled my eyes.

Then before I knew it, I was a grownup, then a wife, then a mother. My own son was born, and by the time he was a preschooler I was telling him the same thing. Well, not the bricks - that was my mother's thing. No, my approach was more hands-on.

"You're growing too fast!" I'd say. "I'm going to squish you so you stay little." I would then put my hands on top of his head and press down, lightly of course, but making a big show of effort and plenty of "hurrrrggghhhh!" sound effects. Giggling, he'd crouch down, and I'd let go in triumph.

Moments later, he'd pop back up as though spring-loaded. "NOPE, I'M STILL GROWING!" he'd squeal delightedly, while I pouted and stomped my foot.

Folks, I've been more than usually sentimental about it this year. Maybe it's because he turned the big 1-0. Double digits. Out of elementary school and on to intermediate school. And while I know I've been watching this happen every day, seen every one of those years from birth to ten pass before my eyes, it still feels like he's grown up behind my back somehow. He makes me laugh often now, not in a "Kids Say the Darndest Things" kind of way, but with real wit, intention, and a keen sense of satire and comic timing. We have conversations these days that are less mother/little kid and more conversations that I would have with anyone, talks about beliefs and politics and day-to-day stuff.

Anyway. I was running errands today, all the little here and there mini-quests that I've been putting off. I finished up at the post office - just around the corner from Duncan's new school - around the same time that school was letting out. So I was driving home past the school during the mass exodus of wave after wave of children. Waiting at the traffic light, I looked off to my left and sure enough, I saw my little man.

I wasn't there to pick him up. He was unaware of my presence. And sitting alone in my car at that moment I had this weird feeling like I was looking through a window into his private, increasingly independent world, his world outside that didn't include me. He was just walking down the street, confident of his own way, bookbag slung over his shoulder, chatting and laughing with friends on his way home. And suddenly I had something in my eye, because dammit, he looked so grown up. Not my little one, but a pre-teen, all Wonder Years and stuff. The light changed, and I drove on without alerting him.

Mom, you were right. We all grow up too fast. I rolled my eyes at your sentimentality, just as I'm pretty sure Duncan now rolls his eyes at mine. I'd say I can't wait until he has a child of his own and understands it himself, but you know what? I can. I really can.

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