a big boy now

Colin had been waiting almost exactly 365 days for yesterday to arrive.

About a year ago, Jack let slip that in August, he’d be going to San Francisco, by himself, to spend a week with my dad, their “Papa.” (And by “let slip” I mean the kid can’t keep a secret to save his life.)

Colin fretted all summer. Why not him? Why Jack? It was so unfair.

Oh, the injustice of being the younger child. It’s something I’ve tried to be more cognizant of as a parent. As the oldest sibling among my brothers and sisters, it seemed perfectly fair that Jack would get his adventure first.

After a painstaking year, during which the question, “when am I going to California?” was posed nearly daily, the big day finally arrived, but was shrouded in a typically klutzy Chelsea maneuver that left my literally seeing stars for the drive from home to Dulles.

He was quiet in the car. Not unusual for the 5:00am hour or for Colin. For a kid that can be really loud, he can also be quiet as a church mouse. (Assuming church mice are quiet. I don’t exactly have field experience there.)

As we approached IAD from the parking lot, Colin wrapped himself around my arm.

“Come with me, mommy.”

“I can’t,” I said reassuringly. “I don’t have any clothes to wear.”

“You can buy new clothes,” he offered, hitting me at my vulnerable point.

“Jack is home waiting for me to return.”

“Daddy can go get him.”

The reasons I should go with him continued as we made our way through security and to the gate. I started to dread boarding. Would he cry? Would be refuse to go?

But when it came time, he gave me a hug, pulled his face into the most serious look I’ve ever seen on the kid, and made his way.

And of course, on the other end I know he’s being spoiled, getting the special one-on-one time he deserves and not having to share this experience with Jack or with me. He will return with fantastic stories and detailed accounts of where he was able to drink Dr. Pepper, which seems to be a big goal of his trip.

But it’s up to Papa to break it to him that the Hollywood sign does not live in the Bay Area, as seeing that iconic landmark is definitely on Colin’s bucket list.

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happy birthday, jack!

Photo taken on Jack’s California adventure.

Are you really 11 years old? I feel like you’ve grown up more in this past year than in all the other years combined.

Each day, you bring more joy into my life. I love everything about you (except maybe your stinky feet). I love that of all the instruments you could choose from, you decided to play the saxophone. I love that when I was flipping out because I thought my car had been stolen from the movie theater parking garage, you remained calm. I love what you can create with a pencil and a piece of paper. I love that you opted for a gingerbread-pineapple upside down cake instead of our usual themed cupcakes (even though I’ve mastered camo frosting). I love how you reason with me when there’s something that you want.

(You say you want to be a genetic engineer so that you can breed a lizard with a bird to make a dragon, but if that profession doesn’t give you fulfillment, I see a career in law for you even though I love you too much for you to become a lawyer.)

You’re learning patience. You’re learning how to be fair to your little brother, although sometimes when your friends are around, you forget. You no longer cover you eyes when there’s a kissing scene in a movie and you even brush your hair now. You love cauliflower, and thanked me for making it for dinner the other night. Last year, your teacher told me that being around kids like you made her wish she had had her own children. (I might have cried a little at that comment.)

You are empathetic, clever, funny.

I’m so happy to be your mommy, or as you have started to refer to me, mom.

on growing up

Kids will be kids. Until they aren’t. And when does that process begin? Each milestone from their first giggles and steps to riding a bike and everything in between prepares our children for the path to independence, and eventually (or rather, inevitably) adulthood.

On Saturday, Jack flew to San Francisco to spend a week with his grandfather. This trip was born out of a teary declaration he made several months ago that went something like this:

Jack: Mommy (sob, hiccup) I’m an adventurous spirit (sob, hiccup) and (sob, hiccup) I just realized (sob, hiccup) I’m never going to get to slay a dragon.

(Yes, the poor child inherited my flare for the dramatic.)

Dragons might not be real, but cross country flights are, so I quickly arranged with my dad for Jack to fly out to San Francisco the last week of summer vacation. (Yes, we start school on August 20th.) At the time, the trip seemed so far off. But before I knew it, I was driving him to the airport and watching him as he pulled his own suitcase through the terminal. As if that weren’t grown up behavior enough, as we waited out the delay, he asked if he could have a decaf coffee. It felt like a landmark moment, sitting there at the Starbucks drinking our lattes. For the record, I now have a decaf vanilla latte with whip fanatic on my hands.

If he was scared or nervous, he didn’t show it, but I was roiled inside. All my own flying angst was multiplied by infinity, but I knew I couldn’t show it. I was light. I was airy. We joked. We bought extra books just in case he finishes Lord of the Rings. An hour and a half after our schedule departure time came the call to board unaccompanied minors. He gave me one last hug and walked away with the gate attendant without looking back once.

Me? I collapsed in a heap of tears for the next 45 minutes while waiting (as I was required to do) for his plane to be in the air.

Was I scared his plane would crash? Oddly, no. Was I afraid he wasn’t going to have a good time or that my dad wouldn’t take care of him? Absolutely not. But more than how I expect I will feel with his first shave, first love, or the deepening of his voice, watching my little boy march bravely toward an adventure without me struck a chord deep inside my mommy core.

He’s always going to be my baby, but he’s growing into such a little man.