“Can I do my Latin outside, momma?”
“Sure, baby, just don’t let Colt go out with you.”
“Thanks,” my son, Jon, heads to the back door, bookmarking his workbook with his finger.
He turns to me.
“You’ve got to give me a hug first.”
The corners of his mouth turn up. We meet halfway between the kitchen and the living room and he throws his arms around me. I squeeze him hard. He starts to pull away but I squeeze harder. Kids need to be touched. I’m just starting to learn this. I’m bent down to his level and my chin is resting on the nape of his neck. I take a deep breath. He smells like boy. All boy. Sweat, dirt, gravel, and adventure.
I want to pull him even tighter, but he is as close to me as he can get, so I lift him up off the ground. I quickly set him back down. I’m taken aback. He is...he is so heavy. When did this happen? I carry his little brother Colt around all day, effortlessly, but this son of mine is... heavy. I ask him to let me try picking him up again.
He laughs, “Ok...?”
“I’ll explain it later; I just want to feel how heavy you are.”
I pick him up again. I close my eyes in order to better soak in the moment. This is what 9 years feel like. 9 years of life. It feels like roughly 65lbs of weight on my arms and shoulders, but 10,000lbs pressing down on my heart.
I set him back down, cup his face, and look him straight in the eyes, “You’re 9 years old.”
He smiles and gives me a look that translates into this woman is crazy, “Yup, I’m nine. Nine years and three months, actually.”
I squeeze him again, “I’ve got 9 more years with you before you are set free; half of my time with you is over.”
I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry.
“Actually, you have eight years and 9 months,” he corrects me. This annoys me, but I know he gets his argumentative spirit honestly.
I place my hand on his heart and pray aloud, “Lord, put a desire for YOU deep down in this boy’s heart.” This time he give me a look that says, you are so weird, but I like it.
“Ok, go on outside and finish your Latin. Let me know if you need help.”
As he works outside on the back deck I watch him. My mind and heart are heavy. Fear sets in. I can’t quit thinking about the past nine years, all the ways I have failed him with my selfishness, laziness, anger, pride, and on and on. Can I make up for it all in the next nine years? Have a completely failed him or just mildly screwed him up?
Oh Lord, help me.
As I watch him working on his Latin, I let out a loud laugh. He is trying to focus on English derivatives and memorizing “The Sanctus”, but he is distracted by the bird that keeps fluttering past him. He watches it fly to and fro. He isn’t captivated by its beauty; no, I know what he is thinking. He wants to shoot it!
Before I can even finish the thought, he transforms his pencil into an imaginary shot gun and he fires away. He returns to his Latin, writes another couple words, and then is right back to his imaginary hunt. I watch this for several minutes and the book “Wild at Heart” comes to mind:
The recipe for fun is pretty simple raising boys: add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction, and you’ve got yourself a winner...this doesn’t end with age, the stakes simply get higher.
The stakes simply get higher. Today he battles birds in the backyard with an imaginary shotgun, tomorrow he battles marriage, careers, and children of his own. Deep in man’s heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for?
I know this is true but, god willing, I’ve got at least nine more years at the kitchen table with him. Ultimately, I know this little man will have to find the answers on his own, out there, in that world I so badly want to shield him from, but I am oh-so-thankful that God has given me this time here and now with him. May I never take one moment for granted.
I add another gift to my “1,000 Gifts” list:
#27. Eight years and nine more months until he is eighteen.