Let’s just be honest here: boys scare me. Before my son was born, I used to dread the day that I might have a boy. They are messy, unpredictable, adventurous, impulsive, and fearless.
And let’s face it, if you were to ask anyone who knows me, they would say that I am definitely none of those things! After he was born, I tried my hardest to hold on to the belief that I could still control everything, including him. I told myself that with a little bit of work, I could get him to be just like my daughter; and therefore, just like me. All he needed was that free spirit sucked right out of him and I would have the perfect boy.
Or so I thought.
I can distinctly remember the day that I realized I had two choices when it came to my son: 1.) completely kill his spirit and all that goes along with his larger than life personality, or 2.) change the way I parent and interact with him. (Or in simple terms: change myself.)
We were leaving for my daughter’s preschool class and I had him dressed in a matching gingham checkered shorts and button-up shirt. Covering his adorable little feet were a pair of the cutest See Kai Run shoes you could ever imagine. He was close to 2 years old at the time, and just starting to veer off the beaten path. In other words, he was just starting to realize that he was independent of me and that the thrill-seeking thoughts that lived in his head would one day drive a lot of his behavior.
As we walked off the porch, I noticed a big mud puddle at the bottom of the step. It was just the perfect size for a small child to be introduced to their first belly flop. For a brief second I said to myself, “Oh no, he is going to jump right in,” but I dismissed it and kept walking to the car. After all, I did tell him that we had to get going and under no circumstances was he to get any part of his outfit dirty. (That kind of lame threat always works with a small child right? Especially one that is mesmerized by the sparkle of the mud puddle sitting right at his feet?)
What came next was the biggest shriek of joy his little mouth could muster, as he launched himself smack dab into the middle of that puddle. And as he lay there splashing around — and consequently soaking his perfect little outfit — I couldn’t help but wonder if I was given this carefree, life-loving child for a reason.
It was in that moment that I made my choice. I chose the aforementioned Option No. 2: I changed myself, rather than change him. And I let him be.
The truth is, that adventurous, fearless, can-do little boy has been one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Every time the words “I can’t” come out of my mouth, he immediately says “Why not?” Every time my body cringes and I holler “Be careful!” he looks at me with sheer determination and says, “How come?” And every time I reach my hand out to stop him, he takes it in his hand and says “Mom, it’s okay.”
Pulling into the driveway tonight, I was greeted by my now 6-year-old free-spirited child. He was pretending to ride his uncle’s shiny and extremely fast Harley Davidson motorcycle, right there before my eyes. Before he noticed that I had arrived home, though, I sat in the car and watched him — just for a minute. I watched him turn the handlebars in an attempt to look like he was the coolest thing that bike had ever seen. I watched his eyes light up as he looked out over the top of the headlight, pretending like he was going 100 miles per hour. And I watched him live in the moment — a moment of pure joy — as he did what he does best: be a fearless and adventurous little boy.
Just before I reached for the door handle, I stopped myself and looked one last time at this incredible little guy who has made me laugh and smile more times than I could have ever imagined. Maybe it was the way his body moved as he pretended to drive his uncle’s bike in our driveway, or maybe it was the shrieks of happiness that came out of his mouth, as he made every possible bike sound imaginable. But regardless, looking at him now, I couldn’t help but think about that spirited, adventurous little toddler who sat splashing in a mud puddle so long ago and being so thankful that I chose Option No. 2.
Our kids are the best teachers we have. They challenge every ounce of our being and make us stretch in ways that we never knew we were capable of. They make us stop and realize that sometimes the best things in life are right in front of us; we just need to slow ourselves down long enough to take it all in.
As I got out of the car, he looked over at me and smiled with that toothless grin that only he can pull off and said the best five words I had heard all day; “Mom get on, it’s awesome.”More On