Little Boy Lost

She just let him be a kid.

That’s what the good mothers do, especially those with little boys who need to run and get dirty and build things.

He needed to ride his bike or his skateboard, needed to build with his dad in their garage, and just needed to be a boy.

So she let him.

We buckle them into seat belts and strap on helmets, wrap sharp coffee table corners in bubble wrap, and use safety gates to prevent little guys from being hurt on too-steep staircases. We puree homemade baby food, vigilantly prevent choking hazards, and sneak into the silent darkness of the nursery at night to watch them simply breathe. We hold little hands as we carefully cross the street, practice calling 911, and use safety scissors.

That’s what the good mothers do, after all. We do everything in our power to keep them safe.

She just let him be a kid.

As I sat in my family room that night the news began to spread through our small town the way modern-day news travels…over Facebook. A comment about a horrible accident, a young boy injured, speculation about who the young boy was, exchanges between young and old trying to figure it all out, and finally the sad news that he did not survive the accident.

And then I saw the message that made my heart sink.

I knew who this boy was, knew his mother. We work together at the school and she is wonderful.

She always talked about her boys.

Now one was gone.

She just did what others mothers do every day: she just let him be a kid.

How do we do this every day, when there is no guarantee? No promise of a future, or of grandchildren on our laps, no cure for cancer, no special bubble wrap that can protect our children? We let them go each day, like small pieces of our hearts with goals and ambitions and a will all their own.

We pray and we wish and we cross our fingers that they will be OK. Throw a bit of faith or fairy dust into the wind as we shout, “Have a nice day!”

How do we do this?

I have wondered this many times over since that night in May…and since the warm evening in June when we all stood and cheered as his mother walked down the aisle amongst the 8th graders to accept her son’s diploma…and since the late afternoon in August on what would have been his 14th birthday, as I hugged his mom in the memorial garden the volunteers have created for her.

How do we do this?

I have become a bit more tolerant of the eye rolls, a bit more relaxed about the have-to-do things. A few more minutes to stay up, an extra hour to browse at the mall, another cookie, maybe a pat on the head as I walk by.

Because life reminded me that we truly don’t have unlimited time with our kids.

So I just continue to do what the good mothers do.

I just let them be kids.

 

 This post originally ran on Moonfrye

Change of Address on Memory Lane

I’m taking a break to do a quick post.  Actually, it’s more of a “To Whom it May Concern” type of a note.  Details on where to find me if I don’t show up for dinner.  With both kids gone today and hubby at work, I feel I should reach out to my blog friends in case of emergency.

I’m in the playroom game room.  Please come and rescue me.

You might think I am playing something fun on the Wii, maybe doing a puzzle, or catching up on my coloring.  No, for some unknown reason I decided to get in here today and try to make some sense of things.  Re-establish order and organization to a room that is no longer considered a playroom.  How hard could it be?

Hard.

This room was my #1 main reason for wanting to buy this particular house when we first started looking.  Our son was 2 years old, and his toys, books, and puzzles were encroaching on the adult sections of our small condo.  I longed for a place to cram organize his toys and games where he could play and scatter things however he wanted.  When we moved in, so did all of his friends: Little Tikes, Fisher Price, Playskool, Brio.  The room is off the back of the house, with a convenient little door that I can close and forget the mess even exists.

As time went on, aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends continued to overindulge bless our little one with toys and books.  Then came little sister and we had to add GIRL things (of course), which then doubles the amount of things in the room.

People started to comment that I could start my own preschool back there!  Charge admission!  Maybe you should do day care!  I stated wondering if we had too much stuff in the playroom.  But it kept my kids and their friends busy and happy for hours at a time.  The kitchen was right next door, and the sliding door led straight to the backyard, where we had EVEN MORE toys.  It was like a Club Med for kids.

But now things are different.  When you have an 11 year old and a 16 year old, the focus of a “hang out” room changes.  Most of the original toys and games are long gone, replaced with a Wii, bean bag chairs, an ipod dock, Scrabble, five versions of Monopoly, and an art table.  But as I am finding this afternoon, many strange remnants of the previous occupants (formerly known as little kids) remain:

  • Paint pots.  With that wonderfully smelling tempera paint still in them.  I can’t really distinguish what the colors are, and I think it now qualifies as toxic waste.
  • Crayons, both broken and whole, enough to fill two plastic boxes.  I haven’t watched one of my kids use a crayon since Bush was in office; probably the first one.
  • A Disney princess spiral notebook.  My daughter was never into the princess thing anyway, which is illustrated by the scars and mustache she drew on the princess on the cover.
  • A snake made of 100 beer bottle caps, diligently collected by my son.  This was a very smelly hobby, which we quickly disbanded after the snake was made for 100th day in kindergarten.
  • Books with titles like The Big Red Plane and Pirate Plunder’s Treasure Hunt.  I may actually still have both of these memorized.
  • An Ant Farm, complete with several colony buildings and plastic tubes to connect them with.  The Ant Family has long since left the building (and not in a good way, I’m afraid)
  • The Sea Monkey Habitat.  As with the Ant Family, the Sea Monkey Family met their own terrible fate long ago.

So after spending more time in the GAME room than I would care to admit, I’m not sure what I have really accomplished.  A trip down memory lane with some things, a trip to the garbage can for most.

But I’m keeping the bottle cap snake.  At least he doesn’t smell like beer anymore.

Shooting Stars and Tissues

When you work at an elementary school, you don’t really mark the passing of time by the changing of the seasons or by flipping the calendar page.  There are milestones to be passed in each year, some academic and some not.

At our school we have the usual events each month, a few spirit assemblies thrown in here and there, egg drop, spring break, standardized testing, Open House, and the traditional end of the year field trips to the bowling alley or park.

And then, when the last day of school is about a week away, we have the Shooting Star song.

I’m not even sure who wrote this song, but the graduating 5th graders sing it at our school-wide Awards Assembly each June.  Boys and girls sit stiffly in metal folding chairs, facing the entire school in their nice clothes and uncomfortable shoes that pinch their toes.  They have paid their dues, sitting through assemblies for 6 years on the hard linoleum floor with legs crossed.  Now they have earned the right to sit in a real chair, facing those they have reigned over as “The Big Kids” since last August.

They look so much older, wiser, maybe a bit more mature than last fall.  Girls primp and stumble in their heels, looking nothing like they did just a day before on the playground.  The boys are still mostly disheveled, but a bit more pulled together than usual.  Proud parents crowd the room, snapping pictures for the scrapbooks.  Awards are handed out.

And then they sing the song…..and I always get teary-eyed, even when the 5th grade kids singing it aren’t related to me.

Please won’t you catch
a Shooting Star for me
And take it with you on your way
Though it seems like we’ve just met, you’re the one I won’t forget
Hope some kind wind blows you back my way

CHORUS:
And I was thinking maybe somewhere later down the road
After all our stories have been told
I’ll sit and think of you, the dear friend I once knew
(who)Shot through my life like a shooting star

You are so dear, you’re my bright and shining star
You brighten up each and every day
You are so near, but soon you’ll be so far
So why not hold my hand today?

CHORUS

Sometimes I know that a part of you will show
Deep in my heart and in my smile
There will always be a part of you deep inside my heart
And I’ll know just when to let it go

CHORUS

Why does this sappy song make me so teary?  Why doesn’t it do that to the kids?  I guess I hear so much more in the words than they do, remember so many more goodbyes I have experienced.  To hear these words sung a cappella by 75 young people is beautiful. 

My daughter, who was one of the 5th graders last year, thinks I’m nuts.  “Oh my gosh, Mom, it’s just a song!” she says, nicely refraining from telling me to get a grip.  She has already asked me why I cry if I don’t even have a kid singing.  That, my dear, you will have to figure out on your own someday.

Tomorrow morning is the assembly.  I am taking tissues.