I've never had an eleven year old son before. He's so many things all at once these days and sometimes these differing aspects of his personality strike me as being contradictory.
He is sometimes still a child, playing with his color changer Hot Wheels in his now-necessarily-daily shower. He still plays little role playing games with his younger siblings and though it's all done under the guise of 'look at what a good older brother I am,' I can see that he genuinely still enjoys these little blips of his not-quite adolescent life. Few things bring him more joy that going on Dictionary.com and orchestrating things so that grown-up (and even better - English) voices enunciate words like poop and butt-cheeks. He loves to play with our cat and they chase each other merrily all around the house, pouncing on one another in turns. He still requests each night to be specially 'put to bed,' and feels very hard done by if we bypass his room and only feel we have the energy to formally put the Littles to bed. In so many ways, he's still a little boy. A little boy who secrets away the Omega-3 tablets that he's supposed to take each morning at breakfast. Sometimes I find his stash. This boy still makes me a homespun Valentine card each year and he's quick to sacrifice his now relatively rare peer-given Valentine candies to me, though he really should not. When it's his lot to kill houseflies in the summer, he's been known to leave one - carefully arranged - for me on my pillow at night. A transcendant maturity has not always been his to brag of.
But more recently, these precious last blips of childhood are intermingled with the qualities of an older boy. Every now and then his voice cracks as he speaks. He's good natured and laughs at himself when this happens, and he likes to recreate the cracking words over and over for our listening pleasure. Sometimes when people phone and he answers, they assume he's me. This too, fortunately, he finds funny so far. I've alluded to the necessity of regular showers now in his nascent life. These showers are no longer optional. He gets to choose class options now in school, which he finds animating and empowering. Girls contact his older sister via Facebook to enquire about his relationship status. He is an excellent babysitter and the house is always spotless when we arrive back home, because he knows a monetary bonus is therefore his. He loves foreign exchange students and does everything he can to ease their transition into Canadian life; he feels very aware of their potential loneliness. This boy is a beautiful person and in a strange sort of twisting inconsistency, he's curiously mature. I wish so much that I could post his picture so that you could see the freckles skittering across his nose. I think they might be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
I was the blessed recipient of a gentle rebuke last night. Jude - our family's representative people person - tactfully began the conversation with something along the lines of, "Mom, are you OK? Do you feel like you're going through anything these days?"
It's so odd to rear up these children who then begin to surpass you as they go along. I'm finding now with both Anabel and Jude, that our relationships are morphing into something brand new and unexpected. They are my children still, needing the guidance and unconditional love that one would expect, but they're also becoming these new creations who are in a strange sort of way, my friends now, too. I always knew that they'd both push way past me in a physical height sense (their birth weights were 10-7 and 9-0 respectively), but I failed to foresee this element of their development. They have real insight to offer me, as I journey my way through life.
Jude's diplomatic opening led the way for me to be able to accept what he had to say to me, which was - I'm afraid to confess - that I've been distracted and irritable with him of late. He's probably right, too. Now that the kids are back in school after the Christmas holidays, I've locked into drill sergeant task mode as I try to dissemble some of the aftermath resulting from six people spending two weeks together, mostly indoors. To my extreme discredit, I get this way when I'm focused on a task that feels daunting. I lose sight of relationship and I begin, disconcertingly for everyone involved, to closely resemble Genghis Khan during one of his military campaigns. My son's gentle rebuke was just what I needed to hear. Out of the mouths of babes.
Curious Birdplane Boy Print from BlackApple's Etsy Shop
I've mentioned this child. He's the one with a perfect smattering of freckles across the bridge of his brown nose. This nose I could wax eloquent upon for some time. It's the perfect nose, the kind that you have to intentionally not kiss anymore as you remember that it's owner is a great, big, dignified ten. And soon to be eleven, at that. If you do lose yourself so much as to go ahead and kiss it anyway, despite your best intentions, it must be within the safe confines of your own home where no eagle-eyed, pre-adolescent peer will witness your lapse.
This boy makes me smile. He's my easy one. He's the one who spontaneously comes up behind me to rub my neck. He tells me that I look nice. He still wants me to come in to his Grade 5 classroom to volunteer. He still initiates a kiss for me each day right on the school field in front of his friends. He tells me that I make the best birthday parties. He isn't a child in the typical egocentric sort of way; he naturally excels at considering others. I thank God for him each day. When I first met my Mother-in-law, I remember vividly how she told me that JoyBoy - her lastborn son - never gave her a day's trouble in all his life. This is precisely the way I feel about my Jude. Life is so pleasant when he's in the room.
His favorite activity is making people laugh and to say that he's good at it is putting things mildly. I don't ever have to toss off a pity laugh for him in the interest of building self-esteem; there's absolutely no need. I do, however, often have to tell him to stop already so that I can stop laughing and get on with the business of life. He smiles all the time and somehow, the sun seems to follow him around.
Alongside his countless strengths, he struggles sometimes with his work ethic. He's one of the lucky ones, and was born with a clever head on his shoulders and so most of the time has to exert very little effort in school and places like that in order to succeed. He doesn't always see the value in "busting one's butt" in order to pull off an A+ when he can pull off B+'s and A's with no effort at all. It's been a struggle trying to show him why this is valuable, even crucial for one's sustained satisfaction through life. Seeing the intrinsic pleasure of a difficult job well done doesn't come naturally to this boy, cute though his nose may be. At ten, he doesn't yet get that all that frantic paddling can sometimes get you to the crest of the most gobsmacking wave. The one that very few others get to feast their eyes upon and slide down, the thrill of it ennervating their very souls.
He's a very olive-green boy. I watch him, endlessly fascinated. His current obsession (and they change at a frenetic pace) is playing soldier. He loves to horrify me by telling me he wants to join the SWAT. Either that or the RCMP. I comfort myself in asserting inside my own head that he only says so to make me cringe. He dresses in camoflauge as soon as it's tasteful to remove his school uniform. He carves sticks into weapon-like things with his jack-knife. He loves catapaults and sling shots. He begs me to buy him all manner of Nerf weaponry for his birthday. But just try to hit a sparrow with the grill of your Volvo and watch him dissolve into tears. His heart is so soft, and knowing this has helped me to be patient with all his commando shenanigans. I am one lucky girl.