Despite the odds, my oldest son is growing up. Slowly, while the world spins madly on, he's turning into a young man. Frustrations over strained peas have dissolved into wondering if he'll be home on Friday evening. Power struggles over diaper changes have grown into his requests to start the car engine.
I remember watching his little feet shuffle around the kitchen floor, perfectly padded and round. Now his perfectly padded feet are replaced with large football cleats, and I watch him, just prior to practice, donned in his football padding, still shuffling around the kitchen floor searching each cupboard long and hard for something to eat... again...
Chores around the house used to be an exciting highlight of the day for him, and an exercise in patience for me. What could be done in an hour on my own, would easily become a half-day activity together, which I'd finish off when he went to bed. Now I realize that though chores don't elicit quite the same reaction from him, he is an independent creature who lets me get on with my own list, while he usually can accomplish his own chores without me needing to re-do when he isn't looking. He's the guy who can open the jar when it's stuck, fix the screen door when it's falling apart, and clean up vomit that sends me to seek out fresh air.
He got his hair cut today. The days of mom's buzz-cuts are long gone and replaced with trips to the hair dresser for a 'real' cut. As I sit waiting, watching this young man converse with the hair dresser, I realize not only does he look like a young man at that particular moment, but he can talk like one, too. There is a gentleman lurking under the hair cutting cape that I hadn't noticed before.
After the hair cut, we get a few groceries, including a treat of Oreo cookies, which he has carefully negotiated for rather then whine for. After he helps collect the groceries, and carries the bags to the van, he settles into the front seat and begins to carefully hand out cookies to his siblings... and not even starting with himself. I ponder this unnoticed maturity as I drive. When did this happen? When did he become the kind of boy that I would have noticed in high school? How did time elapse so quickly when it seemed to drag by so slowly when he was a toddler.
I decide to glance over again and take in this newly discovered young adult. I want to take a mental picture before I close my eyes once more, only to open them to find this male stranger beside me. I cast my eyes right, afraid to see what I may have already missed, only to be met by the most beautiful smile ever. My little man, who had enjoyed his Oreos so much, has the most cookie-crumbly mouth I've ever seem. Black wetness is in every nook and cranny of his lips and he is joyously oblivious to it. This smile is one that has roots to his childhood... the messy face after food. I look at him, realizing that perhaps his childhood ways aren't completely gone. My baby will always be my baby, despite what form his body takes, what depths his voice descends to, and how vast his vocabulary becomes. I love my cookie-mouthed man-child, and am grateful for the reminder of how closely linked playful childhood is with the business of being an adult. I'm keeping my eyes wide open.
- Heather McCue