February 5, 2012
My Birthday Boy
This morning, as I sat with your half-slumbering five-year-old body in our glider chair, I had to smile, because I know my days of waking you up this way are numbered. It won’t be that many years before the mere thought of needing a hug from me to cajole you into consciousness might make you retch slightly (five years, four years, perhaps one?), so I know I’d better enjoy this now. I wish I had pictures of these pretty little moments (maybe when Mommy completely learns how to use her Smart phone, I will), the ones that make that forty-pound weight gain while gestating you completely worthwhile.
You remember the moments I’m talking about, right? Like spontaneously telling me I’m your best friend (Justin was so five minutes ago). Announcing to fifty people at your pajama book fair that “This is my Mom!”, and expecting all of them to be as dazzled as you were. Begging me to “be with you” instead of Justin, which means rejecting the far-more-fun twenty-one year old sitter so you can spend the afternoon with me. You know, those brief moments in time where hanging out with your mother was actually cool.
In my mind, I envision future Zachary shuddering, complete with formidable eye roll.
I am aware, because I saw this happen all too often with my students and their parents during my teaching career, that in the near future I will know less than nothing. Not too long from now our days of snuggling under the “picnic blanket”, me making up stories in which you are invariably the hero, you changing the endings because you get bored, will soon cease. Down the road, upon learning I will be going out for the evening I will barely earn your guttural goodbye, rather than the teary scenario that usually ensues (the one giving that funeral scene in “Steel Magnolias” a run for its money).
In a few years, I will merely exist to serve.
You will prefer to spend time with your friends, or alone, or anyplace in the house where your father and I are not. I am certain you will think we are too old to understand anything (and perhaps, given my current memory lapses, you’ll be justified in that thought). You will not take kindly to my suggestions of how much you once liked us, will regard with great disdain any photos I may have figured out how to take, or anecdotes I’ll use to remind you of your early childhood. After this rejection I will retreat with my remembrance arsenal and eat more chocolate (and drink more wine) than usual, securing my mementos away to be brought out as evidence another time.
Perhaps, for fun, that time will coincide with the arrival of your prom date.
No, my days as “Mommy-Goddess” are limited, which is a new phenomenon for me, because I’m pretty certain I’ll still be “Justin’s girl” when I’m eighty. It’s a bittersweet knowing, tinged with regret that this time will recede so quickly, and relief that eventually, your days of mommy- worship will disappear. Your brother’s life will have a different trajectory than your own, one which I will try my damndest to infuse with as much happiness as possible. You, my sweet boy, will have choices that your brother will not.
I hope you will occasionally make the wrong ones (as long as they don’t involve jail time, we’re good). I wish that you will struggle sometimes, because it toughens the soul, which is a good thing, because sometimes life is a bitch. And as I inevitably watch you wield your charms on your love interests, please remember to treat those girls with respect, because if you don’t, you are so grounded.
You’re starting kindergarten this year, and I’m told the time from now to graduation feels like a blink of an eye more often than it does an eternity, so for now, in this moment, I’ll gather you to me. I’ll whisper in your ear to remember to love yourself, and I mean all of yourself, because that’s the only way you’ll ever truly love another. I’ll quietly remind you that a great GPA is nice, but you’ll make me most proud if you’re known as a boy who’s kind to others. I’ll sweetly suggest that when you grow up you should remember your mother, the one who wiped your butt, disciplined you even when she didn’t feel like it, and nourished you not only with mediocre cooking, but with all the love in her considerable soul.
In a few minutes you’ll invariably start to whine that you’re tired and I’m mean for waking you, and the magic moment will be pierced through with our daily reality. I will beg you to get dressed as you flop yourself on the floor, and eventually, as I bribe you with reminders of your friends waiting for you at school, you will comply. I’ll feel that soporific sweetness start to slip away, and as we busy ourselves with our daily routine, only one thought will remain.
Happy 5th Birthday, my big and little boy. I love you.