“Mommy, there’s a problem,” my newly minted 12 year-old says, plopping down on the other side of the couch and interrupting a rare moment of quiet when I am actually relaxing with a book.
This better be good.
I look up at his greasy hair, clothes dirty from a day at basketball camp and face still unnaturally sheened by sweat and sunblock. “ls it that you desperately need a shower?”
“Silly Mommy,” he says, flashing me his goofy grin. “No. It’s that I’m bored.”
Well stop the presses.
“Should I mention the shower again?” I ask.
“Later,” he says and absently starts twisting the top of his hair in his fingers.
Oh, my baby is tired. The simple gesture says so, immediately tugging at my heart and taking me back at least a decade. I see him in his crib putting himself to bed, his fingers twirled in his hair. I see him at nursery school when I sneak peeks through the door before pickup, drowsy on the camp bus after a long day, at the breakfast table the morning after a late night, in bed before sleep. I see him a thousand times, his eyes a little heavy, his fingers going round and round.
A dozen times over the years I told him to stop because he was making knots in his hair. He never listened, but then he did, just by growing up I guess. I almost forgot this little signal that had me nodding and knowing that it was bedtime. God, it’s sweet.
I smile, so happy for this intrusion to my moment alone to have this moment with him. My husband and middle son are off at his baseball game. Tonight I have elected to skip the 8:30 p.m. game — yes, that’s 8:30 p.m. for a 9 year-old — and stay home with the other boys who have been out almost every night this week. It’s not often these days that we have this quiet. It’s always race race race.
“So how was camp?” I try, although I already asked this question earlier and received the standard blank stare, followed by the standard “fine,” which seemed an effort to extract. But now he starts talking, telling me about his day, his birthday, his last baseball game — twirling all the while.
I eat it all up and then say, “You’re tired, baby.”
“There’s a problem,” he continues and lifts his feet up so they rest on my legs. “I need a snack.”
Even through his socks I can smell them. “Oh, there is definitely a problem here,” I agree and push them off. “Come on, go shower,” I gently order, and he slowly gets up to go but stops, bends down, and rests his head on me for a hug. A warm, greasy, stinky hug.
I watch his hulking, itching to grow preteen body go. He’s so far from that little boy in the crib, but there’s still some baby left in there. And just like with all the milestones, this leap to teenager is bittersweet. I love watching him grow physically, mentally, and socially, but of course with every step he takes and every inch he grows, I lose another piece of my baby.
I hear the shower go on upstairs. Afterwards, he will wash up and then retreat to his room either to read or play on his phone. He’s disappearing more and more these days, with friends, school, sports, life…
Putting my book aside, I get up as well to slice him an apple, cutting off the skins just like he likes it.
It’s not a problem.