And so it has begun. Besides having his ruptured appendix removed, my sweet, loving 8 year old son must also have had his a large part of his innocence removed; he has magically grown up. I noticed last week and I haven’t been the same since.
Daniel has always been one of those little boys who would shower me with love and affection, regardless of who else was around. He relished his place as the youngest, the baby, and played it to the hilt for attention. Our morning conversations generally start with, “Hey Dan! Guess what?”
“You love me,” he responds. “More than anything. More than ice cream, more than air.”
I smile, hug and kiss him.
Suddenly, the appendix has been removed, fourth grade is looming, and Daniel is maturing. Now he responds, “You love me” more like a race to the answer than the answer itself. He never had an issue with being my baby; now he wants to be my young man.
It’s happening slowly, but surely. I see the signs; I recognize them from my older children. Before I was his mommy; now I am his mom.
We went to Kidz Camp the other day so Daniel could make his triumpthiant return to his friends after his surgery. They were all curious about his ordeal and he told the story with great dramatics. It was all war stories and surgery scars as he enjoyed the attention. As he walked me to the exit, the ususal affection I was accustomed to was conspiciously absent. He was still sweet, just much more reserved. I chalked it up to appendix story adrenelin.
Then, two days later, as I was holding his hand and walking him to him to Kidz Camp, he was his old self, smiling and talking. As we rounded the corner, one of his friends and a young male counselor came into view and Daniel’s hand immediately dropped to his side. He looked at me sheepishly and went off to the playground.
It happened again while out shopping. We cruised through the Disney store looking at the clearance items and I gestured to a Mickey Mouse lunch box. “Hey Dan, you need a new lunch box. How about Mickey?”
“Ah, no, Mom,” was his response. He gave me a shrug and darted around to the stuffed animals. I followed him and asked, “So what’s the deal with you? You don’t hold my hand anymore. You said I embarrassed you when I danced in public. These things never bothered you before.”
He smiled sympathetically and responded, “I still need you, Mom. I need you for rides to places.” This was supposed to make me feel better!
I laughed, and kiddingly said to him, “You forgot that you need me for food and a roof over your head, Dan.”
“I was afraid to mention the food,” he cautiously responded.
“It’s ok, Daniel,” I smiled at him. I could see it made him feel better. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings and I didn’t want to him to believe that I was upset or offended by his thoughts. He didn’t realize that I am a veteran at this game; both Ryan and Shannon, his older siblings, were just the same way. They were solely reliant, they were needy and I was their world. Once they started to make friends, develop outside interests, my hold on them started to slip away. Certainly we still spent time together, we still had conversations and showed affection, but it was different. They didn’t “need” me any more.
Now, on the cusp of the all important intermediate grade four, Daniel is approaching his pushing off point. I knew this day was coming but it is still a difficult realization that my baby is growing up. As I write this, Daniel is playing video games, yelling at the tv screen. “Hey Dan,” I call to him.
He turns around and smiles at me. “You love me,” he responds.