Every other night, when it is my turn to put M.(age 8) to bed, the following things happen: I read him a chapter or two of whatever our current book is (right now it is the second in a series called The Cupcake Crusader, which is thoroughly average and not half as clever as I think the author thinks it is, but M. is amused by it), then he walks on my upper back (this feels relaxing after a day spend hunched over my computer at work), and then the best part happens. The best part is when we lie down on the floor together (because he sleeps on the floor and not his perfectly good bed for reasons I do not understand) and he curls into the crook of my arm and we talk about our days. He tells me one good thing and one bad thing about his day and then asks me how work was or wants me to tell him a story about when he was a baby.
We talk and I hold all 50 pounds of him close to me. His hair smells like the park and when it is time for me to go, he tells me he loves me and asks me to check on him again in a little while. Tonight when I went back to check on him he was sound asleep, clutching his knitting needles in each hand. It was both adorable and alarming as fall asleep hold a size 11 knitting needle seems like the kind of thing that can easily result in having to wear an eye patch for the rest of your life.
In case you are wondering, he is currently knitting leg warmers that he hopes to sell to his friends for $10 a pair. I’m not sure how to break it to him that his friends may not want a pair of artisanal handcrafted leg warmers made by someone who only knows how to knit squares and rectangles.
I look at his brown hand and dirty fingernails clutching the knitting needles and I am overwhelmed by a desire to scoop him up like a baby. Instead I tuck him, remove all of the things that might poke his eye out while he sleeps, and try not to go all I’ll Love You Forever on him.
I started my parenting career with step-sons who were 10 and 13 when their dad and I got married. In some obvious ways, this was challenging. Even though I had pretty ideal circumstances — my husband’s ex-wife is a lovely person, the divorce was half a decade old before I came into the picture, the boys were fundamentally good kids– there is no denying being a step-parent is hard. Watching my husband parent teenagers was hard. I’ve often joked that because I started with teenagers, toddlers didn’t scare me. Terrible twos? Easy breezy. Have you met 15? 15 SUCKS.
I sometimes look at M. and feel like I’ve already seen the future. He is so loving and so sweet to me right now and I want to soak it all up because I can’t help but feel like there is an invisible clock counting down the days (hopefully years) until he because a teenager and goes through the totally normal and totally heartbreaking process of developing an independent identity by becoming, excuse my technical jargon, a hormone addled know-it-all little shit.
I want to bottle up his love, his sweetness, his curiosity and the fact that he wants nothing more than to end his day by snuggling with me and save it for the long winters of parenting a teenager.
I can’t do that, of course, so I can just take comfort in knowing that this post will embarrass the crap out of him someday and by that point I’ll have been parenting a teenager long enough to find that deeply satisfying.
I love you, little Bobo.