"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

the kickball game

Molly and I arrived at school Friday afternoon to pick up the boys, like we always do. On that day, however, for the very first time, we would be bringing home a 10-year old. It was Evan's birthday.

We met Max first and together we walked to the front lobby to wait for our big boy. The bell rang and a stream of fourth- and fifth-graders flooded the hallways. After just a minute or so, I saw him as he rounded the corner. He looked different...bigger. A smile spread across his face as he caught my eye. It's not that he was just so happy to see me, his mama. No, it was something else. A sparkle in his eye, his chest puffed up a bit. It was joy, but it was also pride. I swear my little guy looked ten-feet tall walking towards us.

Before I could tousle his hair, sneak a top-of-the-head kiss, and say "happy birthday," he began:

"Picture this," he said, as we three listeners stood rapt, ignoring the swell of the crowd around us.

"This afternoon. Bonus recess. Kickball game. We're down by three, 13-10, and we're kicking. It's the last up of the game, 'cause Ms. G had just given us the warning to finish up. So I get up to kick. As soon as they see that it's me coming up to kick, all the kids on the other team in the outfield come in real close. Probably because they know I usually don't kick it really far...."

[I have to stop myself from reacting to this. This is Truth, provided without emotion or self-consciousness. It is merely a logical description of Fact, from my very logical kid.]

He continues without missing a beat:

"So the ball's coming toward me and as soon as I kick it, I know it's awesome. It goes sailing. Over. Their. Heads. and WAY out into the outfield. I start running. Man on third gets home. Man on second gets home. Mason's rounding to third and they try to peg him out but the ball misses him by, like, thismuch. Mason gets home. I'm still running. I GET HOME. It was an INSIDE THE PARK GRAND SLAM HOME RUN. And I helped my team win the game!"

You know I started to cry. Right there in the freaking lobby of my kids' school, I teared up over a freaking kickball game. As Max high-fived him and exclaimed, "OHMYGOSH, Evan!! Good job, bro!" I hugged my game-winning 10-year old tight and he didn't protest.

We talked about it the whole way home. We talked about it again when Sam got home from work. I could hear that kid of mine tell that story 100 times and it would make me tear up every time. Evan, the MVP.

When Evan's Destination Imagination team won 1st Place in the State tournament a few weeks ago, I realized that, for a kid like Evan, who has never played team sports, the biggest thing he's missed out on is the feeling of a Team Win (and yes, a Team Loss). He's had plenty of time and space to develop a lot of the other skills that are so fundamental to playing organized sports, but never that feeling of Collective Victory. DI was great for Evan for a number of reasons, but those 1st place medals that he earned together with his teammates were among the top of the top.

Friday's kickball win made me feel so similar to his DI team win....He was proud of his accomplishments, yes, but he knew that it wasn't he alone who won the game. The beauty of teamwork is that, win or lose, you're in it together. But, damn. I'm so happy my kid got to experience what it feels like to Win.

Lesson Learned:

The icing on the proverbial cake is that, when kids started arriving for Evan's party later that evening, two of the moms said to me, "I heard all about Evan's big kickball game today!" The boys went home and TOLD THEIR MOMS about something awesome my kid did WITH A BALL. ON A FIELD.

A birthday miracle, indeed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Decade

I spent a whole day with my biggest boy this week, on a field trip to Jamestown Settlement in eastern Virginia. It was such a great day. I enjoyed watching his interactions with his peers, I swelled with pride as I listened to him rattle off fact after fact of colonial life to the museum docents, I just loved being with him....when we became separated in the group, being sought out by him...still, after all these years. 

I had planned, originally, to sit with a friend of mine on the bus. I assumed that, at nearly 10, my big boy would want to hang with his buds on the bus. Evan had other plans. 

"You can sit with me on the bus, Mom!" he said, as we packed backpacks and lunches and water bottles the night before. "We'll be field trip buddies! Ms. G said we each need a buddy. You'll be mine and I'll be yours so we can keep an eye on each other."


It was sweet...if controlling. But that's how Evan rolls. He always has. He has a heart of gold, that double-digit kid of mine...


...as long as he's the one calling the shots. 


A Decade. Today, that's how long I've been a mother. Longer than it took for me to progress through high school, college, AND my Masters program, but in the blink of an eye.

Wasn't it just yesterday? Last week at the most? No, I know it's been a journey. We've gone through so much and grown in such unexpected ways, my First Born and I. It's been a week and a lifetime all at once. The new mother, just two weeks in to her new role, who called her husband at work from the glider in the nursery, sobbing as she was unable to soothe her baby's hysterical cries. That was me. A different me. An anxious, overwhelmed, afraid-she-wasn't-up-to-this-monumental-task me. I can handle crying babies now. I know so much more.

I know the shush and the sway and the bob.
I know food allergies and reflux and colic.
I know teething and overtiredness and growth spurts. 

I can DO babies now. 

But that's no longer my task.


Now you're a real live human being who is actively having an impact on his world.

Ten.

Am I doing this right? Am I teaching you the right things about respect and love and acceptance and kindness and responsibility and generosity and hard-work and perseverance and social justice and fundamental rights and ..... it goes on and on. The list is never-ending. Are you listening? Are you watching? Are you learning? It's my duty, as your mother, right? To send you off into this world with the tools and the drive to succeed but also the yearning to improve the world around you? Am I doing enough?


I'm back to being that anxious not-up-for-this-task mother. Only now, given the hindsight stretching a decade in my rearview mirror, the stakes seem so much higher...the time in which you are still my captive audience so much shorter. How do you raise a 10-year old? I've never done this before so, once again, you're my test subject. It's not fair but it's all we've got. 

But it's not all about me. It's about YOU. As you get older and you start to peek out from beneath my wing, begin inching towards the edge of our nest, peering out into a world that is all your own, I can see you. I can see more of you than when you were just beside me. You're no longer hidden from me within my shadow of Motherhood. You are your own person, a complete person! Your strengths, your gifts, your heart, that will touch the people around you and make an impact on this world that ripples beyond where you can see...beyond where I have the capacity to influence. Your gifts, my love, are plentiful.


You are Determined. God help the person who sets a limit for you, for you will be there to challenge him. As the person negotiating things like your Bed Time, this is a tricky point for me, but this will serve you well in adulthood. You will test boundaries and fight arbitrary limits because you're a rule follower...when the rules make sense. When they don't, you fight against the system that created illogical rules (mostly me and dad, when we assess a consequence that, to you, doesn't fit the crime). Don't ever give up your fight. Your moral compass is strong and true and, if you continue to follow it, you'll never be steered wrong.


You are Tender. You still struggle to show affection...unless you're in the same room as a baby or a dog. You are a Whisperer. You have a way with animals and babies and young kids that can't be taught. When people ask (because they always do) why I, a not-a-dog-person, would get a puppy, I say, "For Evan." Because you're not quick with the hugs for your mama or the "I Love You"s, you needed a dog to pour your love on. Jake is one lucky pup to be on the receiving end of your affection. I'm just happy I get to witness it.



You know your stuff. You told the Jamestown Settlement tour guide this week that an American Indian living in the area around Jamestown could fire 12 arrows from his bow in the same amount of time that it took a colonist to fire his musket once. The tour guide said, "I'm not sure of the specifics on timing, but..." "It's 12," you replied. Yours is an encyclopedic mind, which drives me crazy when I'm retelling a story with generalizations, but which just makes you so damn endearing. Who doesn't love the kid who always has a relevant Fun Fact to share? No one, that's who. Your Great Mom Mom called it Nickel Knowledge...information that isn't worth much, but it sure makes you a fun guest to have at parties.


You know who you are. I've been amazed, ever since you started school, at how uninfluenced by peers you are. I mean, sure: You pick up on social cues and cultural fads like the other kids (you can be sure that it wasn't me who introduced you to Minecraft, Pokemon, or Star Wars). You don't follow the herd, though, and THAT is impressive. You don't apologize for liking (or disliking) what you do, despite how other kids your age may feel. Whatever it is that you're doing or into, you own it. And that might be my very favorite thing about you...the one thing that, above all else, I hope sticks with you forever. 


Just keep being you, kiddo. 

Be quirky and goofy and introspective and emotional and strong-willed and hilarious. Be a walking encyclopedia. Be stubborn and gentle and get mad as hell every now and then. Be persistent and insistent and inquisitive. Be the last one up at night and the first one up in the morning. Continue to overpack your overnight bags because you're right when you quip, "You can never be too prepared!" Be smart and thoughtful and precise. Keep bringing books with you wherever you go. Always be the one to ask just one more question....and rattle off one more answer. 

That list right there? I love that about you. I love it all. I've been loving it something fierce for a decade now. It's the one thing in this 10-year long roller coaster ride of motherhood that hasn't changed a bit. 


Lesson Learned:

Happiest of Birthdays to you, Evan, the one who made me a mother. The one who forever changed my world 10 years ago today. Welcome to your double digits, kiddo. We can do this. YOU can do this.