"Young boys should never be sent to bed…
they always wake up a day older."
J.M. Barrie, "Finding Neverland"
He's an anomaly at 12…at least I think he is.
His sister suggested he could be happy living in a box with a stick for a toy. He received the remark as compliment knowing it was extended with affection and a special kind of knowing, the kind reserved for those who are accustomed to your ways and understand you best because their blood is mingled with yours.
I love to watch them using my ears and the eyes in the back of my head, when they have no idea I'm paying attention. She's always been so sweet to him, patient outwardly when inner patience was slimmer than a newborn's lash, and bless his heart, he's blithely oblivious when she needs him to go. Sometimes I have to step in for the rescue, he's like gum barnacled to an old school desk and isn't removed without intention–and sometimes a crowbar.
In middle school, the rules change. If you're lucky like him, you've got an older sibling who tests this fragile ice first. Through osmosis you learn tween-to-teen mores, absorbing the subtleties of what's accepted for a middle schooler–and more importantly, what's not. Cool shows to watch. Cool clothes to wear. Cool toys for play. In this generation, birthday gifts for boys can fit in the palm of your hand. Board games and balls are transfigured to a kaleidoscopic stack of giftcards.
I hate our age of electronics. We resist it…we battle it…but, still it robs so much. Imagination. Boredom that leads to the joy of discovery. Being fully present with family or friends. I'm not just talking about children.
He's my baby. I remind him when he's 40-something with kids of his own, he'll still be my baby. There's a world of difference between being "a" baby and being my baby and every mama on the planet understands just what I mean. It's not about indulging your youngest; it's the realization that Time leads a race you'll never win and if you don't fix your eyes on the target, it'll be a blur on its way to out of view. I blink, but only when I have to.
This child straddles the "in-between"; he sees Teenager just ahead–how can you not be excited about that?!–but if he opens his closet door, he's happy to pull out the Legos. He'll create and construct for hours, exuding a patience worthy of marvel. I admire his determination for something I could never do.
Two bottle caps take center stage, one Coke, one Dr. Pepper, his newest kittenesque amusement. Flipping, spinning, flicking and twirling, they've provided hours of entertainment. He's mastered the backspin. His enthusiasm is contagious and his best friend shares his fascination long after their colas are gone. Best friends are birthed in shared delight and discovery.
I smile and savor and resist blinking as long as possible. I force myself to hold him loosely, knowing too tight a fist will serve neither of us. When he marches to his own drumbeat, impervious to pressure to grow up faster than need be, I'm thankful.
And I send him to bed knowing Neverland exists only on the silver screen, and that, yes, tomorrow he'll be a day older…
…but thinking maybe, just maybe, a sliver of that Peter Pan boyish wonder might just stick with him a while longer.