His First Dance

My seventh grader constantly surprises me. I assume I know him well enough to guess how he will react to situations as he navigates adolescence, but I do him a disservice. I underestimate his willingness to try new things, his resilience, his humor and the joy he gets out of his friends. I assume setbacks will set him back.

I am usually wrong.

He is his own man at 13. And I am trying to let go of worrying that he is too introverted, reserved, doesn’t fit the mold. The mold he is creating for himself is better, completely original and, so far, perfectly happy.

He chose to play the baritone horn because he liked the low tone and no one else was playing it. He joined the soccer team even though he had never played. He loves performing on the stage. His teachers tell me how he always makes them laugh. The other night, the boy I thought would never leave home, suggested that he and his brother go on the school’s summer language immersion trip to Costa Rica. He wants to travel.

But the biggest surprise so far was his first dance. Last night.

I worried all day. I told my friends he was anxious about it. I waited for the teary “come get me phone call.”

The phone never rang.

And when he returned from his first dance, his hair damp with sweat and an ear-to-ear smile, he said, “I am never going to sleep tonight. There are too many fun things to remember.”

The seventh graders danced together in a big group jumping up in the air and bumping into each other. During the one slow dance, they kept switching partners, never, it seems, an awkward moment.

“Did you slow dance?” teased his younger brother.

“Well, duh, of course I did!” he said with the bravado of a survivor.

Modesty at Six and Three-Quarters

“You look handsome,” I said on Picture Day.

“I know,” he said.

“You’re Mommy’s awesome helper!”

“Yep.”

“Good reading!”

“I know.”

“Great soccer game. You played hard!”

“But I’m better at baseball. I’m probably going to play in the MLB.”

He doesn’t dwell. He doesn’t brag. He just hasn’t learned to doubt himself. Oh, to save that for later when he will need confidence and swagger.

A Small Milestone in a Big Knife

Last night our five year old asked if he could cut his own chicken.

He did not let go of the knife my husband handed him until he was done with his meal.

He described the differences between a “cutting knife” and a “spreading knife” in detail, as if he has been studying them to prepare for his big night. He asked when each of us first got to cut our own chicken, hoping that he had earned the right sooner than we had.

If it weren’t for my husband, I would have said, “not until you’re six.” But he was ready, and so proud of himself. Independence is critical to self-worth no matter how old you are.

Looking across the table at my grinning little boy, I marked the moment. The days of cutting my boys’ chicken for them are over.