My kids have swim lessons once a week through their school. A bus picks them up around lunchtime and takes them to the local pool, the same pool where I swim. I like to arrange my schedule so I am there for lap swim while they are having their lesson, and now that I am finally swimming again, I managed to be there last week when they showed up with their classmates.
I spotted Six immediately, but could not find Nine. Where was he? I looked and looked, and as a group of older kids meandered over to the deep pool where I was standing, about to dive in, a friend of Nine’s said ciao, and I said ciao, and that was when I realized that the person next to him, the young man nearly a head taller than this boy, with shoulders almost as broad as my own, that stranger was my son.
His growth, at times, is shocking, and also I am so proud of it, like when, as a new mother, I’d relish the moment when the Polish pediatrician put him on the scales and delighted in how much weight he had gained. I had helped do that! The interminable nursing! It was not in vain!
Now it’s interminable grocery shopping, food preparation, cleaning up, then starting over again.
One night last week, tears came to Nine’s eyes when I cruelly told him the kitchen was closed. It’s after nine o’clock for crying out loud! Then I felt bad: he had eaten all his dinner and there had only been one course. The reason he’d wandered off after dinner was to clean his room, like I’d asked. So I made my starving manchild a couple of extra-large crepes with Nutella, and while I stood at the stove, he hugged me so hard I thought, pretty soon, maybe next time he does that, he’ll lift me off the ground.
We wear the same size shoe and trade shirts and jackets. I recently appropriated the brand new “fancy” shirt I had forced him to wear to Christmas lunch with the relatives this one time only, please. It had been languishing, unworn and unwanted at the bottom of his sweatwhirt drawer since he’d gently informed me that Christmas is the only day he’ll wear what I want. By the time next Christmas comes around he’ll have long outgrown it anyway.
He’s a good kid but increasingly he reminds me of a teenager. He ignores me! He makes fun of me! Whenever I am striving to be stern and serious, he pulls an even sterner, more serious face, and very gravely and very slowly says yeeeeeesssss. I laugh every time. No one makes me feel as stupid as my offspring.
He had his best friends over for a sleepover this weekend, the same group of boys he played with in preschool. I can barely remember what they were like back then; the new versions of these boys are so big and bright, they have replaced my memories of their younger selves. They still play with Legos, but they also say bad words, tell bad jokes, finish off an entire pizza and let rip a belch to laughter and cheers.
With each year that passes, I am more aware that I will be a mother to two men for so much of my life, and I will have been a mother to two little boys for almost no time at all.