There are days that I am so caught up in the mayhem of my life that I surely forget to smell the proverbial flowers. I get lost in the chaos, mired in the struggles, am devoured by the difficulties that surround me. I can’t find my way to all the little things, the small miracles that make life so very wonderful.
Today was one of those days. Difficult and overwhelming and then a surprise package came at the end that reminded me of how extraordinary the smallest things can be.
A typical spring Friday night in my house means that there is lacrosse practice for my husband and older son and one or more other assorted events that has us roaming in various directions. There are drop-offs and pick-ups and juggling meals and nothing that makes for a relaxing end of the week. Tonight, my older son had an end-of-season basketball party while my husband had to go coach his team (minus my son and some of the other kids who also play basketball). This left me in the unfortunate position of having to do drop-off and pick-up from the party while also having to feed and entertain my younger son. And, as is typical for a Friday night for me, all I wanted to do was go up to bed, watch some TV and pass out. I was wiped. I had a plan. I would drop off the older kid, make some dinner for the younger kid, sprawl out on the couch in the interim and then head back out to pick up the older kid. My husband would fend for himself when he got home from practice because I would already be tucked away in bed. However, my younger son had other ideas.
“Can we go out to dinner, please?”
“No, I’m too tired.” I was in sweat pants and a t-shirt and was in no shape to be seen by the rest of the world. My pink crocs, which I rarely display for anyone other than my immediate family, were glued to my feet. I was not prepared for real clothes, makeup and putting on actual shoes.
“Pleeeease! Just you and me, mommy.”
“No. We can order a pizza.” I figured that would put an end to this discussion.
“But I want to go out. Please.”
I wasn’t sure what would be worse torture at that point. Actually getting dressed, putting a brush through my hair and applying some makeup so I didn’t look quite as miserable and tired as I felt or listening to him whine about wanting to go out. I relented. It actually seemed like a better idea. I would not have to cook and we could eat while my son was at his party and I would only have to go out once for the evening. This was a plan I could live with. Going out to dinner was, in fact, an easier plan and that was all I was striving for.
We dropped off the older boy at his party and the younger one and I headed to the diner. We figured it would be crowded but we had time and we would make it work.
As the mother of a teenager, I spend a good deal of my time being reminded of how I am always wrong, how I don’t understand anything and how annoying I am. When with my kids, I’m typically poised in a defensive position to deflect the barbs that are generally aimed my way. No amount of reminding my son how disrespectful his comments might be, taking away his phone, preventing him from going out with his friends will ward off the biological disorder called adolescence that turns your once delightful child into a horrible beast. I forget, sometimes, that I also have a 10-year old. A child who can be challenging in his own right but is also an old soul who exudes more love and compassion than I have ever seen emanate from a single human being. He has a perspective on the world that allows him to wander far beyond the typical selfish constructs of a tween and embrace a curiosity for humankind that amazes me. While I sometimes might have labeled him as “manipulative” because he knows exactly how to turn on the charm when he needs to, I have come to realize that he has a genuine gift for knowing exactly the right things to say and do at exactly the right times. He is tuned in. He is connected. He feels things. And I am in awe of him.
And, tonight, as if on cue, he decided to bring me deeper into his world. He decided to share with me the inner workings of his mind. He opened himself up to me in a way I would expect to find with an adult. He appreciated and valued our time together and explained to me why it was so important that he and I have dinner together – just the two of us. His was not just a plan to eat outside the house. He needed to connect.
So, there I am sitting across the table from my round-faced, freckled boy who entered this world a short 10 years, 3 months and 4 days ago. The boy who has stubbornly refused to subscribe to any philosophy that I may have foisted upon him and chose to figure out what makes the world spin all on his own. He is quietly brilliant, remarkably charming and will go to the ends of the earth to get a good laugh out of you. He, himself, loves to smile and giggle and gets such great joy out of seeing others amused. There I was with my boy who has struggled through all of 4th grade. The boy who left school last June with a light shining so brightly after having overcame immense challenges with reading and writing. This year, we saw him go from loving school to dreading taking tests and worrying that he would disappoint us. My boy, who seemed to be heading down a dismal path of academic failure for reasons no one could understand, had something to tell me. He needed me to know that all was not lost. He needed to use that powerful invisible tether that connects mother and child to reassure me that he was ok and reinforce the direct line into his brain.
Tonight we sat together and talked. He started by asking me what big amazing thing I wanted to see happen in the world. I wasn’t sure if he was referencing an end to world hunger or the invention of a TV you could control with your mind. I looked at him quizzically and he said, “let me tell you what I am hoping for. A real bionic man.” I was intrigued because I had never heard him talk about anything like this before. He went on to tell me how amazing it would be for someone to be able to do things they might have either lost the power to do (like having lost a leg or an arm) or never was able to do before (such as run a marathon when they found jogging too hard). He wanted to give people a new chance with their lives so they could go on to do good things for other people.
Wow. OK, I thought perhaps I might have to have his DNA checked because he was far too selfless to have sprung from my loins.
He went on to ask me about my business and provide his thoughts on how we might be successful. He praised me for all the hard work we had done and told me how proud he was of me. I had to catch my breath. What was happening here?
We sat together for 90 minutes. No phones, no handheld games, no distractions. Just him and I. We talked about what he liked and disliked about school and he shared with me all he was learning about Anne Frank and the Holocaust and about the Boston Tea Party. He showcased his grammatical skills by telling me the differences between “they’re,” “their,” and “there” and “two,” “too,” and “to”. I was over the moon. He prattled on and on, engaging me in philosophical discussions about trying to invent teleporting – “Mommy, you could set your watch to have coffee with Tim in Kansas City at 3pm and when the time comes you will just be there to see him. And then you can come home and have dinner with me. Wouldn’t that be great?” Oh yes, my extraordinary boy, it sure would. And I believe you can make it happen.
He told me how, when he’s 30, he would come to pick me up and take me out to dinner. “I can’t wait to do that for you, mommy.” And, together we came up with the premise for a book about a superhero named Incognito who gained the power of invisibility while working as a scientist in a lab. While trying to solve global warming, he interacted with a chemical that knocked him out. When he awoke and stood up to see if he was bruised, he realized he could not see his reflection in the mirror. And, he realized that he was not a vampire but, instead, he was incognito. And then we talked about what it would be like to be able to become invisible in certain tough situations.
I sat across from my son during our meal and marveled at the words coming out of his mouth. I wondered why I had not heard half of it before. Was I not paying attention? Did I not give him enough attention? Was he constantly being overpowered by his older sibling? I realized that some of it was new for him. Some it was just finally forming into thoughts in his head. And, some of it came out because the time was right. He needed to have some alone time, away from the house, away from the rest of the family. Some time just with me to share with me that he was doing great. To show me that the world was opening up in his mind and now he loved to read, fancied himself a writer and had a newfound passion for history. “I’m pretty good at math too, mommy, but it’s not my best.” He wanted to share all the things that were stirring around in his mind with the person he felt he could most trust with it. His mommy.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to smile as wide as my mouth could stretch or cry tears of joy. All I knew for every moment of those 90 minutes was that I was grateful that I have this boy. I love his big brother too but I know it will be a while before he’s coming back from Iamthemostimportantpersoninthewholewideworld Land and I won’t get opportunities like this with for a long time, if ever. I was grateful to hear all the wonderful things floating around in his head and having the reassurance that he had not lost his spark. I was grateful to hear about his passions that also happened to match some of mine. I was most grateful for the fact that he is a beautiful, healthy, happy, kind and loving person. And he is my child. My blessing. My gift. I felt so very fortunate to have someone so extraordinary in my life. I was grateful for the happy accident that we ended up together alone at dinner. I was grateful for the small little things that made this night so unbelievably magical.
As dinner was ending – and I was sad to see it our little bubble burst – we chatted a little bit more about our plans for the weekend and he said, almost out of nowhere, “We need to do this more often, mommy.” I smiled and nodded my head. Yes we do, for sure. And then, we got up, paid the check and walked outside. I was beaming with pride and felt so joyful as I put my arm around his shoulder and he tucked his arm around my back. “I’m so proud of you, buddy. You are growing up to be such an amazing person.” He was smiling and feeling proud and then said, “You did a good job raising me.” And, I was done. I laughed, embraced the moment and knew he was right.