so today wingman turns 11. he also just happens to be getting ready to go through a growth spurt.
i know i've talked about this before. how right before he goes through a growth spurt he does this regression thing. favoring old toys long since put away, reminiscing about when he was little, etc.
he doesn't want to get bigger. or older. he doesn't want to grow up. he doesn't want to be a teenager.
he wants to stay his size and his age. he is comfortable here. in a world where he can ignore the opposite sex and the existence of the 'inappropriate for his age.' he is safe here without the workaday worries and concerns he sees his older brother going through. he is happy here. with his legos and his video games and his mama and papa and his cats and his casually crafted perfect world.
he has seen how it can change. and does. seemingly in an instant. he watches his brother and has seen that rapid transformation. he has had a front row seat to how much it can change in just a year for an adult. he knows upheaval. he knows people die. he knows people get older. and with that comes all these 'things.' and he doesn't like what he sees. and even though he's shielded from the worst of the worries and we mostly spin it all towards the positive, he's not stupid. and very observant.
i indulge this. i meet him where he is. because you have one chance to be a child, and he's doing it the way he sees fit.
for his birthday he asked to get a happy meal. can i tell you how long it's been since he's asked for one of those? so long i can't actually remember. he says it's because the burgers 'always tasted better coming from the happy meal box.' because he likes the apple fries. and because he saw on television that they were offering hot wheels as the toy. he used to love hot wheels.
the other morning when i was sitting with the husband while he had his breakfast before work, and the duke was packed off to the bus for school i heard a strange noise from upstairs. wingman was supposed to be sleeping so i headed up to check it out. and i saw the door to his room ajar. and when i looked in i saw him lying on his stomach driving a hot wheels back and forth across the wooden floor. it's been years since he's had a hot wheel in his hand.
i remember leaving childhood behind. and was mostly glad to do so. good riddance and all that.
but what if your childhood is one marked by warmth and comfort and balloons on your birthday and bubbles in the summer your toes in the soft grass always with family and friends and pets you adore and cozy beds waiting for you to get tucked into. parents you love AND like and a brother you adore. what if you were the buddha baby and grew into the smiley cheerful much adored charming child. how could anyone ask you to leave that behind?
i ask you.
so for now i let him mostly be. there isn't anything either of us can do so i'm just going to let it do what it needs. this growing thing. he is a bright and engaged kid. he'll make his way. right now he just isn't keen to do it so quickly.
which brings out some critics. especially when people find out your 11 year old boy still likes stuffed animals. 'you still let him have stuffed animals?' that's when i choose to tell them he also likes anything that has cats printed stamped or glazed onto it. the more the merrier.
hey, i went through it all already. everything those crazy hippie parents do i did. people had their opinions then and they were welcome to them.
and when my boys each wore the salmon pink long sleeved undershirt (hand me down, so soft and cozy, practical) because that's what they grew into at the time people had their opinions and they were welcome to them. because boys don't wear pink. okay. check.
then there was the duke's barbie (he wanted it) and wingman's doll house (every single kid who came to our house, boy or girl young or old, ended up playing with that doll house) all of it. and don't get me started on the pink doll stroller. hand me down. perfect condition. and it got the babies from A to B. which is all it needs to do when you're three years old. it doesn't need to make a statement. it's a pink doll stroller. not a 'slippery slope.'
so i was making mistakes left and right. ruining my kids. this is me smiling. bless their hearts.
even with all the best intentions a lot of what parenting becomes is not about what the child needs but about what the parent wants to project. which is to say if children are an extension of us and our family then *surely* they should have their best most sophisticated step forward. always. right? their talents and accomplishments should be their calling card. and these should be crafted and honed and nurtured. and then everyone can truly see your child shine. and that's what people should see. the shine. everything else either slowly wiped out or hidden away. certainly not dragged out for company.
what *they* want to hear when they ask him or me questions is that he knows latin and greek and has a beautiful singing voice. that he's a talented artist. but what he will tell you about are his video games and his cats and how awesome the make it yourself touchscreen fountain drink dispenser is at five guys burgers and fries.
learning how to let go and let your children answer for themselves about who they are you definitely run the risk of appearing to have raised the 'least interesting child in the world.' it's okay. take a deep breath. you may curl your toes and want to jump in, but don't. this really is the good stuff.
i am all for talents and gifts in children. for earned bragging rights. for crowing about your kid. but i know there's absolutely no substitute on earth for your childhood. for just being 10. or 11. there's nothing that can replace it once it's happening and certainly not when it's gone.
so my kid is 11 and we're going for a happy meal and the hot wheel. he's got no room to sleep on his bed unless he moves all the stuffed animals. and he has an apron with a big fat smiley cat face on it. and he'd get another one if i let him (he doesn't *need* another one). it has a bunch of cats in chefs hats cooking, mixing, baking. there are butterflies here and there in the pattern. the butterflies are pink.
that's his story and he's sticking to it.
happy birthday, wingman!!! you are, simply, the best.