Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to Tell Your Kid Is Growing Up (and not just growing out of all his clothes too fast)

Nate’s ten and a half. And like all ten-year-old boys, he’s a bit goofy. And immature. And slightly socially awkward. And he doesn’t know what to do with all his gangly limbs. And his feet are growing at a faster rate than even his hair (which is always in his eyes) and so he trips a lot. And he’s always talking. And usually, he doesn’t know when to shut up. And most of the time while he’s talking, he isn’t making one word of sense.

I don't write about him here too often, because truth be told, he's starting to seem like a real person in my eyes, as opposed to one of the little people who live here. A real, honest to goodness person. Who lives here. And I try not to subject the real people in my life to the blog spotlight more than strictly necessary.

But it's necessary today, because lately, I’ll be damned if he hasn't actually begun to act his age. Or maybe far beyond it. And it’s a lovely glimpse into our future.

Exhibit A: He knows when his little brother ought to feel mortified (but doesn‘t tell him so).

Sam the dog doesn’t have much…er…Mississippi leghound in him (for lack of a more delicate term)…but every once in a while, he does get…overexcited. So one day recently he’s in some sort of frenzy after being allowed inside the house and leaps up randomly on Toby and begins…yeah, humping. Toby, delighted, exclaims, “Sam’s hugging me!”

The new, mature Nate doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t correct Toby. Instead, in a moment of perfect understatement, he makes eye contact with me and, with a chagrinned smile, shakes his head slowly. “Not hugging,” he says dryly, then makes his exit.

Exhibit B: He calls ‘em like he sees ‘em, and knows that sometimes, you’ll let him.

He comes home from school, and the first thing he tells me is that his intramural dodge ball team has come in second place in the 5th grade tournament. The second thing he tells me is that two of his friends--we’ll call them Beavis and Butthead--purposely cheered for the opposite team, just, in Nate’s words, because. Nate: “And Mom, I heard them doing that, and I just thought…”

He hesitates, glancing up at me sheepishly, then decides to just blurt it out: “I just thought, what little…bitches.” His voice drops to a whisper on this last, taboo word before he looks back up swiftly to see whether he’ll get away with this in my presence.

And he does. This time. Because I'm hard pressed to think of a better word to use myself, and if nothing else, I value self expression and a well-executed descriptor.

But then he bursts into tears. (What little bitches.)

Exhibit C: He knows enough to know he doesn’t want the entirety of his school’s Girl Scout troop to see him in his pajamas.

They’re caroling. They’re cute, in their matching Santa hats and jingle bells attached to their shoelaces. When I open the door, one of them exclaims, “It’s Nate’s house! Nate lives here!” and I, unthinking mother that I am, say, “Oh, you know Nate? Nate! Come on out here! The girls are caroling!”

Silence. You know, the unnatural kind.

“Nate?!”

Toby’s already in the doorway, bop-bop-bopping along to the first song.

And then I hear some shuffling noises coming from his room. And the sound of dresser drawers opening and closing hastily, and when he finally emerges, the girls are already well into Joy to the World, and he’s wearing track pants and a sweatshirt over the striped pajamas I know he was wearing thirty seconds earlier. He stops well before the doorway.

"Nate! Hi Nate!" several chime.

“Hey,” he says, and I swear his voice has gone down an octave since he’d screeched out his own version of Jingle Bells, Batman Smells in the shower half an hour before.

Exhibit D: We’ve found ourselves in our first ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ dilemma.

The whole Santa situation? It’s gotten downright awkward. He knows. I know he knows. He knows I know he knows. But he won’t cave, so I won’t call his bluff. And whenever the big man is mentioned, I stare somewhere over his right shoulder instead of looking him in the eye.

We’ll see who blinks first.
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