A boy, bigger

September 15th, 2011

Back-to-school time in the US has prompted a flurry of posts about parental anxiety over the transition to school, about wanting to stop time, about how it’s all going so fast. And it is. So very fast. The Small Boy is so tall that sometimes people don’t believe me when I say he’s six – he was almost kept out of a shopping center’s playland yesterday until I offered up his precise birthday. But the thing is, it’s good. It’s amazing, actually, watching the Small Boy grow and grow apart from me. That is the goal, yes? That they can walk out the door themselves, walk to school themselves, put on their own hockey equipment, take off their own skates? That they grow older, and taller, and into themselves?

Every week at hockey training Small Boy practices some new step towards independence. It’s interesting to me, because it is clearly practice – lately, after I’ve parked in the parking garage and he’s hauled the hockey bag out of the trunk, he says to me: “I’m going to go ahead to the stadium now. You wait here so I can get ahead of you,” and off he goes, up the elevator and off to the rink. I wait a few minutes, and take the stairs. Inside the stadium, he gets himself and the bag down the stairs without help – he’s figured it out since the day Nice Woman had to help him, and it involves crashing the bag down the stairs, but that’s the way the Piccolos (the next age group up) do it, so that’s what he does too. Every week he takes over some small task that I had been doing. I used to fill his water bottle and carry it to the players’ bench, but he does that now. He just started doing it one day. After practice he gets his skates off himself (getting them on and properly laced up is still quite the challenge). He runs off to the showers without me – I’ve been told in no uncertain terms not to hang around making sure he gets all the soap out of his hair. After practice, in the parking garage, he hoists the equipment bag into the trunk of the car himself. (Getting the bag up the flight of stairs and out the stadium door, that’s the last barrier. He tried once, but it’s too much.)

Small Boy asked me recently if he could take the train to practice, and although he then immediately said no, he was joking, I don’t think he was entirely. I think he wants that. I think he is already looking forward and seeing the day when he is one of the older boys who does this whole practice thing without his mom’s help. And when I tear up a bit at that thought, and I do, it is not from a sense sadness or loss but sheer wonder and pride at this child who is becoming, so astonishingly, his very own self.