Bill’s mom took a bad fall a couple of years ago, and suffered a head injury that has had lingering effects that leave her a bit confused at times. There is now a frequent cycle of repetition in our interactions that requires incredible patience and understanding. I would have thought that the kids would be quick to run short of those skills, but that is not at all the case. As wrenching as it must be for my husband to see his mother so changed, the aftermath of this last visit has found us reflecting about little other than our amazing children. They both fell so naturally into the role of gentle caregivers, needing no explanation about why it was necessary for them to give information and answers to questions that should have been – and once were - well known by their grandmother. My girl was particularly sweet and indulgent and careful. She somehow slowed and moved with a purpose that is certainly not her norm. She and her Mimi have something special. It pulls my heart in a thousand ways.
And then for the double whammy of unavoidable maturity, the day has arrived. Family Life started this week. We’d been joking about it even more than usual as of late, my boy displaying awkward anticipation at the promise of impending manhood that this rite of passage precludes. His sister provides our comic relief with her uncensored interpretation of matters well beyond her years. She thinks puberty is mostly about armpit hair. One day last week, we were driving home with one moody and one demented back seat passenger, and in the course of asking my boy why he was so glum I suggested that he was perhaps feeling the effects of early puberty. My girl sympathetically asked him: “Are you sad about your armpit hair?”.
On Sunday I asked my boy to join me on an errand, and I had him sit up front with me so we could talk. We were going to Target to pick up some of the stuff I had volunteered to contribute to the family life “goody bags” (get your minds out of the gutter, it’s deodorant and chocolate). He also had a birthday gift card to spend. We were barely out of the driveway before I hit him with the real reason for this one-on-one outing. And he was trapped! I didn’t go into too much detail, but I insisted that he let me tell him a few things despite his insistence that he would prefer to just learn it at Family Life. It was hard to gauge his reaction; he said that he already knew some of the stuff I was talking about. We were both relieved when I agreed to change the subject. At Target, he had very important business in the electronics department and he invited me to take my time looking at bathing suits.
Driving home, it was my boy who brought us back to the topic of family life. He said he didn't understand why everyone was being so weird about it, seems like it's important stuff for people to know about when they grow up.
He helped me put the bags together on Sunday night, and when I dropped him off at school on Monday morning, he flashed me a smile when I sent him off with a cheery: “good luck, champ!”
Bye bye, baby.