The start of summer. A rough year of school ended and with its end, a path was illuminated for us both. An open-ended few months together that I tried not to overplan. There were a few camps, some swim lessons, playdates with friends, and the monotonies of everyday errands to accomplish. But there would be more time this year, I told myself, to savor the exquisite simple moments together as mother and son.
The messy crafts and treasure hunts around the house. Telling secrets in the closet with a flashlight. Reading underneath our favorite tree in the front. Bike rides to the “magic” cul-de-sac, where notes from Disney characters and small trinkets just happened to appear in the trees every now and then. Throwing rocks at our special spot at the creek. Magic afternoons that would curve and wind the way they wanted them to, without beginning nor end as we played and laughed and discovered each other even more so.
Take it in, I prepared myself. Take these moments to memory. Breath them in. Childhood is fleeting. Make it all count.
Seven years old. God. The extra syllable makes its way off my tongue hesitantly. Knowingly. There is no turning back. This may be the last summer when innocence lights the way. When magic still overpowers the stress of school and social expectations. When my soft body is a welcomed home base. The end is nearing. Remember these days.
Despite best laid plans, maturing attitudes and middle-aged childhood priorities took precedence. Jadedness edged into the picture. Grocery shopping scavenger hunts were met with boredom. Hide and seek afternoons were exchanged for alone time in bedrooms. Sass and moodiness dictated activities. Special excursions lost their meaning after so many times. A tide was already shifting and we both knew it.
But, there was still perspective, and you were still small. Born with a condition that caused slow growth, you were always smaller than peers. Healthy, but diminutive. A tortoise and hare race amongst other children. Despite a mature brain and precocious goals, there was still the soft down on your naked back. Baby teeth contently intact. Tiny clothes that I could still fold delicately while laundering. Teeny feet that fit preciously into one hand. And with your small statue, a need for occasional help with things other seven year olds mastered long ago. Holding your hand while stepping out of a carseat. A little extra cheating while playing ball so you could reach better. Training wheels in no rush to come off.
And today, that extra push on a swing. You haven’t quite got the physical force to master it yet, despite your age and our encouragement. I’ve never wanted to baby you. But today, you ask for that push. I stand behind you and press my palms against your small back. You have lived so long now, it seems, but your tiny back feels timeless - the many hours spent patting it after feedings and lifting you out of a crib seem like yesterday. Today, despite cynicism, you chose to dress up in a cape, a bright vestige of naïveté. And today, despite so much independence in such a small package, you chose to be pushed. I stand behind you and relish each gentle rock. So long ago, we’d sway back and forth to get you to sleep as a newborn. We melded together like melting candles, no beginning and no end to our own identity.
Today, things are different. You are so distinctly your own person. So independent. So mature. So wise beyond your small package of a body. But perhaps you still need me every now and then to push you through the moments that still present a challenge. Perhaps the closure of childhood is never a definite end but rather a profound pendulum swing, a process of pushing you so brilliantly into the light, and accepting you back into my arms when you need to come falling back. This. This is the moment, the motion, I will put to memory, so I may remember how to always stand behind to catch your fall, no matter how many summers we cross together as you grow. This.