Sunday, April 11, 2010

Letting go an inch at a time . . .

Summer is around the corner. It has been warm these last weeks, and all the little boys in the neighborhood are out and about.

Okay, maybe the boys aren't so little any more . . . .

When we first moved here, everyone started having babies. There ended up being a run on boys around the time Henry was born. Right now in the neighborhood, there are 8 boys all within a few years of one another. When they were just toddlers, it was so cute to see all the little boys playing with trucks in someone's backyard, as the moms watched securely from the side. At that time, the worst thing that ever happened was a short-lived tussle over a Bob the Builder forklift.

But all that has changed. Now the boys are 5 and 6 and 7 years old, and they want to be out . . . hanging out together, in a big pack, going from house to house to house, having fun, and not having mom looking over their shoulder asking if they put the seat down and washed their hands.

"Hey! What happened to the trucks in backyard? Wasn't that fun too?? Wait, wait . . . I could go find the forklift!! Come baaacccckkkk . . . . "

Right now, being with the boys is a big deal for Henry. They come and ring the door bell and say "can Henry play? " and of course he wants to play. I remember that feeling. The pack instinct. Really really wanting to be included. I know that is part of growing up, and it is especially important for Henry. He is speaking up for himself and feeling comfortable with new kids and new situations. And for that, I am absolutely thrilled. Really big steps!! So, on one hand, I'm gushing! But, damn that other hand . . . I have to admit, I'm scared. Quite scared, actually. (I guess this is why you have to be careful for what you ask for, because you just might get it . . . )

I absolutely do not want to be the overbearing mother with the adult kid who needs to go to therapy at age 22 because he is trying to reverse all of the mama-imposed damage. But honestly, I'm struggling with letting go. Struggling with not knowing where Henry is all the time, and what he is doing all the time and who he is talking to all the time. Damn, I have a hard time letting him go to play on his own in our own house, much less out in the world.

Ray hasn't had a very strong opinion on most of this. Although he is more protective of the kids on some issues, he is pretty relaxed on this one. Ray grew up in a household where the he and his siblings ran around all day on their own, and they were lucky if someone even noticed that they made it back to their beds at night. Definitely a different perspective. And, as Ray noted to me, odds are that we are pretty much living in one of the safest neighborhoods in the whole damn country . . . .

For me, this situation feels a little like when Henry was first born. I was overtaken by a way-powerful, out-of-nowhere mama bear instinct. I used to lie in bed, thinking about all of the horrible, unspeakable things that could happen to my precious baby boy. And, then I'd try to calm myself by thinking about how I would jump into action, with super-mother powers, to protect him. (really - no cape or anything, but I did imagine lots of leaping and near-flying). For the first few months of Henry's life, those tapes would play over and over in my head. Eventually, I settled into motherhood, and the tapes quieted down. But now, here we go again. The tape is back on, and this time, I may actually have to resort to finding a cape . . . .

Logically, I know there are countless things that are completely out of my control as Henry moves into the world. Just like there are things completely out of my control when we simply drive to school in the morning. I know that I need to trust (and hope and pray and teach and watch out my front window - a lot!!)

And all of this leads up to the rules . . . (#5: See the List 101 in 1001).

Yesterday, Henry, Ray and I put together a list of family rules for the summer. We talked about how Henry is getting old enough for certain privileges, like being able to play in the neighborhood with friends. We talked about having fun and staying safe. Together, we came up with 5 rules Henry must follow or he will be grounded. Period. We then posted the rules. At first they were posted front and center on the refrigerator, but then I decided I could be a little more discreet, and now they are inside a kitchen cabinet door.

(I really wanted to have them inked onto Henry's stomach, but I couldn't find a tattoo artist who would take on a kindergartener).

So, now the poor kid hears me trying to drill the rules in his head. Yesterday he even said "mom don't quiz me about the rules. Just read them to me if you have to." Poor, poor kid . . .

Most important to me though are the general rules at the bottom of the list: "WATCH OUT. Make smart choices. Trust yourself. Be yourself. Run, yell and tell." (Henry added that last one, courtesy of his karate master). I just want to teach Henry to think. To listen to himself. To not give in to kid-pressure just because. To be who he is. He is a smart kid. I want to keep him safe, and still let him have a BLAST this summer.

Be safe AND have a blast. Is that too much to ask??

So far, Henry is really doing well with all of this. Rules followed to a tee.

And, I guess I'm holding my own too, all things considered! Somehow, I will learn to breathe when Henry is not in my immediate sight line. When he is not in my arms, telling me what a great day he had hanging out with his friends. When he is not sitting next to me on the couch watching Electric Company. When he is not cuddling on my lap as I bury my nose in his hair and am overwhelmed with the miracle that he is.

And, when he is with me for these things, I will love that precious time all the more . . . .

Breathe, breathe, breathe . . . .

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