“I'm afraid I'll wake up different tomorrow.”
He stood beside me at the dining room table, frowning. Before I could begin to guess at the context, his sister swooped in with an arguably comforting, “No no, buddy, don't worry. That just happens to dragons.”
Dragons, you see, transform when they get all the things they want, then turn nasty and greedy, and then they grow bigger and meaner. Or something.
Liam persisted. “I don't want to get different."
I joined in the reassurance. No, he would not wake up scaly or monstrous in the morning. (Well . . .) That was just dragons. I stopped before I got to the part that I really wanted to say, that he will wake up different. That every morning when he wakes up, he's different than he was the day before, and the rest of us are too. Every moment we're learning and growing and changing, each of us moving forward on our own path. It's beautiful. It's mysterious. And it makes me sad.
Jake often says he doesn't want the kids to grow up. That they're so cute now, and in a few years they won't want to cuddle, and they'll think we're embarrassing instead of awesome. But I love the idea of seeing them grow up. I can't wait to find out who they become.
At the same time, I agree with Liam. I don't want him to wake up different. This beautiful little boy, my middle child, the one I don't mention as often simply because I don't question myself with him. Unlike the other two, I just get him. He's a deep thinker and stubborn as hell and can barely control himself around ice cream. It's like he's a piece of my soul.
I dread him losing his sweetness. I'm already bracing myself for the moment he figures out superheroes are purely fictional, and for the day he no longer runs into the kitchen asking for something to help him stick himself to the walls. I wonder if there's a way to help him preserve the sense of magic, the feeling that the whole world is amazing.
When I kissed him goodnight I noticed how big his hands are growing. He is slowly, slowly moving out of little boyhood. He gave his two-year-old cousin the cuddly stuffed tiger he doesn't want anymore. He likes cars and tools and legos – even trains have become a bit passe.
I look at my family, and Jake's, and everyone else's, and the pattern seems so clear: Girls come back home. They grow up, and eventually, if you're lucky, become your friends. But boys, it seems, carve out their own separate lives. They're around. They love you still. Maybe a little less than they used to. At any rate, they need you less.
I can't help but note the contradiction here. For my girls, I'm attempting to model this mom as multi-dimensional human being idea. I want them to know there's more to me, so that they feel free to explore their own myriad roles and relationships as they grow. With my boy, it's so much less enlightened. For him, I would consider dropping all the ideals if I knew that I would just continue to be his mommy. But that would be wrong. That wouldn't be healthy. That's how Norman Bates' mother's bones wound up in a rocking chair in the basement.
So yes, I will let him go when I need to. But I hope he doesn't wake up different for a long time yet.