You’ll Always be my little boy. Or girl. It’s a theme I’ve seen often over the years in quotes, television dialogue, lyrics, etc. The words became trite. Then, in an instant, they weren’t. Suddenly I grasped them on another level. A college professor friend, whenever I have one of these epiphanies, is fond of issuing a flat, “you’ve internalized it.” It always makes me feel like I just heard the report from a cannon whose ball came over the hill awhile ago.
Despite understanding, in theory, that our children our in a constant, dynamic state of development, our mind has this habit of looking upon other beings as fixed. I imagine it’s some evolutionary economy of the mind -which must have to set some sort of assumptions about things or every interaction would be exhausting. Or… more exhausting.
Well, I was standing in my son’s doorway watching him lie on his bed and stare at his sock. It’d taken an even five minutes to get the other one on his foot. When he tuned into my presence, I raised my eyebrows.
He came back, “These are cool socks, dad.”
I haven’t seen behavior like this since certain college roommates. (You know who you are.)
”OK. Whatdya say we aim for under four on this second sock, buddy…”
About five minutes later at the breakfast table there was a mishap with a cup of milk.
”I barely brushed it…” He said. And after some study, added, “why are cups so much smaller at the bottom than the top.”
I almost bit: barely any taper is really necessary for stacking. It’s probably mostly for saving material. And if adults call for heavy bottomed coffee mugs in the groggy morning, and thick bottomed lowballs in the evening, why the hell should a wiggly kid get a crappy tapered cup?
Before I replied, I reflected on those roommates again and wondered if I should worry that middle school got to my son before he’d gotten to it.
A few minutes later, as I stole a sip of coffee, sitting on the couch, he came up with a grin and drew out the question, “Hug?”
My mind drifted to Tommy Boy for a moment before I eagerly agreed.
Then in the driveway I saw him almost imperceptibly flub a save against his sister shooting a soccer ball at the garage door. He caught my eye with an equally perceptible knowing smile. And that stuck with me. For hours. A loose end. A riddle rattling around in the back of my messy skull.
All at once, I recalled buying those socks earlier in the week. Had he taken the time in the scramble of morning to appreciate them, and then… show that appreciation? Then rather than complain about cups I’ve audibly maligned on numerous occasions, posit a casual query? Then issue a a squeeze of morale? Then do my leg work of encouraging his sister?
And the report came after the cannonball had flattened me.