This week I celebrate the fact that I have kept a human being alive for fifteen years. The fact that I have done this, despite accidentally killing each and every house plant I have ever met, is really quite an accomplishment. This boy is alive and thriving and has me to thank for it. And, I guess on a fairly significant level, he has his father to thank as well.
For example, my husband stopped me from applying the ear drops orally when the boy had an ear infection (in all fairness, it was the infection that caused my sleep deprivation). He takes him for a drive when he’s been talking back, and my eye begins to twitch. He brings pizza when I truly cannot cook another food item for my growing, hangry boy.
So yes, my son, with a great deal of fatherly support, has survived fifteen years with me for a mother. And it wasn’t easy, let me tell you. He had his own ideas about how to live, and few of them were any good, especially when he was two and thought that sitting in the middle of the street was the best way to see the garbage truck up close.
Throughout the years, he’s had a number of bad ideas, like sand-eating and running in the road and turning anything into an object of impalement. But there I was, heart in my throat, grabbing him up and listing species of animals that do their toileting on the beach. I think it was easier back then, because, even though I had to be in decent physical shape, I could put my body between him and the sharp objects.
Nowadays, if he wanted to eat sand badly enough, there isn’t much I could do to stop him since he’s almost a head taller than I am. But I’ve been able to turn him into what you could reasonably call a germaphobe. So in some ways, I’m glad he’s fifteen and much more reasonable most of the time.
But in other ways, I feel like there are more dangers out there for him, and there’s less chance of me being able to put my body between them and him. When he was two, I could see the stick, but at fifteen, I can only guess at what could hurt him. Now, he can find trouble and heartache with just one click of the mouse on his laptop. He can make choices for himself that will have lifelong consequences.
Sure, I’m not helpless. I have parental controls, and I am fairly adept at nagging. I set rules, and I talk to this kid until I have said all of the words. I listen and try to keep my face calm no matter what he tells me.
But there are so many days when I want to pull him into the ol’ DeLorean from “Back to the Future” and make our way back to the sand-eating days. Because even though he’s taller and smarter and unlikely to lick a floor, he’s so vulnerable. He’s still much more innocent that he could possibly fathom. He’s just so good. And he doesn’t deserve to have his heart broken.
I know it will break anyway because that’s how life works. And I know that I’ll try to scoop up all the pieces the way I scooped him up and got him out of the middle of the road. I also know that I won’t be able to fix it the same way.
And really, someday he will be grown up and do most of his own fixing. All the lessons about sharp objects and staying out of dangerous streets will have to be enough as he grows from boy to man. I hope they are enough. And, if they’re not, I hope he knows who to call. Even if it’s his dad.