One of my favorite traditions at the end of my work-at-home days is to power down the computer and go for a walk around the neighborhood with my Sweet Boy. It's a time for both of us to decompress and reconnect, to notice the simple things that make us smile, to hold hands and breathe deeply. During the fall, it's also a time to collect pine cones, ooh-and-ahh and the "burning trees" maxing out their colors, listen to the high school marching band warming up on the other side of the hill.
Today Sweet Boy took his scooter out with us on our walk. This scooter is way too small for him, the kind with the two wheels on the back, but I can tell he feels much more comfortable on it than on his (much hated) bicycle. He's mastered this little scooter, and he's proud of himself when he rides it. And he feels like a big kid on it, like the grade school kids who skateboard up and down our street.
About halfway around the block we encountered three boys from the neighborhood, all between the ages of 8 and 11, and all who live within a few houses of us. They were skateboarding and playing in the creek. While SB and I threw monkey balls into the creek, the boys came over and started talking to us. In fact, I quickly realized, they were talking to Sweet Boy, showing off for him by climbing over the railings at the creek and jumping from one muddy bank to the other, demonstrating how you can drop sticks into the sewer and see them come out on the other side of the street, doing tricks on their skateboards. Boy stuff, for sure.
Oh, you should have seen the stars in Sweet Boys eyes. These big boys are talking to me! They want to show me how to climb down into the creek! They want to show me their scooters! He joined in a couple times with "Watch how fast I can go!" and the boys cheered for him as he raced scooter down the sidewalk. They talked about their schools and SpongeBob. The boys told him of a legend of an alligator in the sewer -- and then the oldest boy, sensing SB's nervousness, said, "but don't worry...that was a long time ago, when my dad was a kid." Sweet Boy responded by snapping his hands like an alligator jaw and laughing.
What really struck me about this encounter was that Sweet Boy had no trepidation about joining in with these three kids who were so obviously older than him. He was one of the gang immediately, though his awe at being included was obvious. I caught a glimpse of my little guy growing up right before me, like in those 10 minutes he crossed the invisible line between toddler and boy. One minute I was holding on to the back of his pants as he leaned over the railing of the creek, the next minute I could picture him zooming down the street on his own skateboard. It's hard to describe the emotion in those moments -- proud of him, wanting to protect him, backing off to let him interact -- my heart was full and shattering at the same time.
As we left for home, he called "See you later, buddies!" and they all called him buddy right back. A giant smile on his face and a spring in his step, he turned back into my little boy again, reaching up and grasping my hand as we turned the corner. He beamed up at me and said, with all the desire in his oversized heart, "I wish I could be a big boy like my new friends."
Soon enough, lovebug, soon enough.