I have a boy. He isn’t really small anymore, because he is now eleven, and that is practically grown-up! He wants Responsibility! He already knows how to do the laundry so I don’t have to remind him to put it on low setting for the permanent press clothes, even if he forgot last week and I had to iron twenty-eleven pieces of clothing that should have been wash and wear. Or, wait, maybe that was the time I just rinsed them and twirled them in the dryer again because ain’t nobody got time to do that much ironing.
Anyway, he is still a small boy in my eyes, and I like to ask him why he is so cute when he is taking life (doing dishes) too seriously. Then he has to laugh and show me his dimples, but it is true: he also has callouses on his hands and plenty of survival skills in his head and a whole back pack of gear for the woods. One day after school was over I found this note: “Gone to the woods. Might stay all night.” He had the dog and his bug-out bag and a pile of snacks raided from the cupboard. I didn’t have any problem with that, except that we had a supper invitation that evening and I didn’t think it would be quite responsible to leave him home.
Being the second born, he tends to wander off and depend on others to remind him of basic needs like meal time and when he should change his clothes. He also wears hand-me-downs and gets stuck with the little-boy-jobs and, like I said, he wants Responsibilities. Often he stays home while someone either more competent or more needy goes along to the store to push the cart or ride in it.
Last week the call came that his reading glasses were in. (Yeah, that is two down in a family of five children. The genes are against us.) So this time it was going to be just the two of us, running errands and visiting. We picked up the glasses first and he self consciously wore them for about five minutes at Walmart before putting them in his pockets. Then we spotted
our pediatrician, a lady he does not care to ever see in normal life, and out came the glasses quick as a flash. “These are almost a disguise, wouldn’t you say, Mama?”
I have been startled, when I really listen, to realize how easy it is to miss a quieter child, not hear their ideas in the chaos of the talkers. It is so much fun to hear them because often when they get a chance to talk on their own, they have volumes to say. While we were driving we discussed his bucket list. “I have so many things I want to do when I am big, I don’t think I can ever do them all.” I told him that I know just how that feels. Not that I want to go sky diving or hang gliding or even set a snare that actually catches something besides siblings. But still.
He told me long stories of people who survived airplane crashes, plummeting down from 33,000 feet or so, to smash into a jungle where vines fortuitously broke the fall and they lived to tell the tale and how they survived in the jungle for two weeks before they found another human. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s all about survival these days. 🙂
We bought a bag of sour cream and onion chips at Walmart, and ate the whole greasy lot of them. He did. While I was at Aldi’s. While he was reading King of the Wind which we had just bought at Goodwill. It was his idea of a really good time, reading uninterrupted without needing to share the chips.
So, all we really did was run errands, but he had my undivided attention, and I have come to conclude that is really all a child needs to feel special. Maybe it is all any of us need to feel special.