Nothing prepares you for the day that you put your son to bed a boy and he stomps down the stairs the next morning as a full grown man. But that’s pretty much how it happens. One day he’s cataloging his Neopet collection and the next day he’s playing guitar in a hardcore band. If you’re slow, if you blink, you will miss the transformation
This is the thought that occurred to me as I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning, talking to my son about the fact that he was scheduled to get his braces off after school. Like any “good” mother I promised him an effed up bucktoothed, beaver grill if he didn’t wear his retainer at night, and like any good son, he humored me and promised to wear it. There, at the kitchen counter, he seemed like a walking contradiction. Here was this ginormous, deep voiced man-boy, drinking a juice box and talking about looking forward to chewing gum and eating skittles again. I actually caught myself looking at him with my head tilted like the RCA dog trying to figure out how I missed the fact that he had sprouted the shoulder span of a linebacker.
It definitely wasn’t always that way. When he was little, there were a lot of "well meaning" comments and questions from my parents and in-laws about his slight build and motor-driven antics For example, every time my father saw him in the pool or the bathtub, he would invariably ask me “Does he eat?”. It took every ounce of restraint and good humor that I had to\keep my razor-sharp tongue in its holster during these little exchanges. (Which by the way, I am still waiting for the Nobel Peace Prize for accomplishing. 'Cause, the questions from my in-laws? They could have made Gandhi go postal,) I mean, I certainly understood why they might have had concerns, he was ghostly white and you could count every rib. He used to bounce off the walls and furniture like a pinball. He was so hyper that his doctor nicknamed him “perpetual motion baby”, because his arms and legs never stopped moving when you picked him up.
But like many of the concerns that you have with your children, particulaly as a first time parent, this just faded away. By the time he was 13, the question of my son’s frailness gave way to concern for our ability to continue shoveling food in his ever-chewing yap. It was around this time that my father stopped asking me whether he ate and switched over to “What’s your grocery bill like these days?”.
When I came home from work that night was all excited to see how he looked without his braces. I hadn't seen his teeth since early sixth grade and at that time, they were, ummm, bucky, for lack of a better word. He came bopping into the kitchen in his usual fashion and I was knocked back by his appearance. He had a straight, white, movie star smile. He actually looked like he aged another couple of years since breakfast. I was very happy for him, but kind of sad for myself. My little boy was clearly a man.
As I collapsed into bed that night I tried to find the silver lining in my son's silver lining-less smile. He had grown up in a blink and his 11 year old sister was running hard to catch up with him. Restless, I got up and went to the bathroom. I turned the light on and took a long look in the mirror. I had bags under my eyes and the beginning of crow's feet, but at 47 that was to be expected. Then, I had the most horrifying thought . . what if we parents aged at the same lightning speed as our children? At this stage of the game, that would have tipped me straight into shuffling with a walker-land. I sighed heavily, relieved that nature was not quite that cruel. And then it dawned on me, there was the silver lining that I had been hoping for.