Yesterday marked my 500th blog post on jennswondering. It began almost exactly five years ago in an effort to learn blogging so I could list it as a skill for potential clients. It has turned into a five-year (so far) capturing of moments in my sons’ lives. 500 small moments that we, as a family, might otherwise forget. One day, I will share them with the boys, when I am old enough that they feel obligated to forgive me. And they are old enough to recognize what I see in them each time they inspire me to write: unique, funny, creative, sweet, smart, much-loved boys.
The other night, I watched my sons get scuba certified in a huge fish tank at the Denver Aquarium. For the first few minutes, all I could see were their flippers and legs hanging off the platform, big fish and a stingray swimming by.
Then they jumped in. My older son (13), eager for this adventure, kept dipping his face in the water to watch the sea life.
My younger son (12) kept his head above water, waiting for the instructor to plunge into the water after them. My eyes were drawn to the whiteness of his skinny ankles peeking out from a baggy wetsuit.
My older son waved at me through the glass, but I could tell the little one was struggling. While the others barely moved their feet to stay upright, he pedaled rapidly as if he were on a bike climbing a steep hill. The instructor stayed with him, held his hand, had to pull him down when they dove deeper.
Maybe a mom shouldn’t watch her sons be tested. With more than an hour in the water, he never looked through the glass, never saw me watching, waiting for a signal. I could feel his discomfort, nerves.
Then suddenly, it looked like the instructor was leading him quickly to the surface. The others followed, huddling around him. From my perch below, I fretted.
My older son ducked back under the water, signaling his little brother was too cold. Doing so-so.
I waited, watching those white, white ankles.
Finally, big brother gave the thumbs up.
And the certification went on.
During the days surrounding Christmas at the family farm this year, I noticed a change in my role as mom. Not once did any of my three boys ask me to play.
They played eight games of Dog-opoly – one that went to almost 11pm, laughing, trading properties and gunning for Free Parking. They did not need me to keep it going or fair.
They played with Nerf guns and raced across the grass, strategized in the tree house and moved stealthily through the barn in imagined battles. But not once did my second grader hand me a weapon. Just this summer, I frequently found myself dodging chickens, Nerf gun in hand, as we went after the enemy. But with all three on the same side of the battle, they did not seek out another soldier.
They had a blast together. Three energetic brothers in a tree house take the game to a much higher level of fun.
And while that has always been the goal – raising three boys who are good brothers and friends – I felt a tremendous loss. Now what?
I am not ready to let go of playing with my sons, but admittedly excellent at Dog-opoly, I never made a good Nerf-toting, chicken-dodging soldier.
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.
I pulled or strained a muscle in my right hand while walking our crazy dog. So daily tasks are somewhat of a challenge lately. Buttoning shirts, turning the knob on the can opener, and clipping fingernails all surprisingly hurt.
So the other night, I was making lettuce wraps and could not open the jar of necessary Hoisin Sauce.
My ten year old, who was watching me cook and talking about his upcoming report on the Battle of Little Bighorn, offered to help.
I was about to say it was too tight for him, but I stopped myself. Why say that? Why not let him try?
I handed him the jar.
It took him only a few seconds to open it and hand it back to me with a smile. “You’re weak, mom.”
And that was when I realized that from this day forward, my son will always be stronger than I am.