Today, as I write this, you are four years old. And even though I still call you “my baby,” we both know that that’s a stretch. Truthfully, you’re no longer a baby. You are now a full-fledged kid.
I can’t believe how much you’ve changed in just a short year. At some point in the last few months, a switch flipped inside you. Your father says the switch is called “testosterone.” I guess he knows more about that subject than I do.
I’m not sure what exactly flipped that switch, but you are now wild and crazy. It’s like one day your brain told your body that boys are supposed to be loud and rambunctious, that they should run everywhere and yell for no good reason. This was a completely new concept to your arms and legs because you’d always kept them under control. You were quiet and reserved and never jumped on the furniture. But now, I can no longer say those things about you.
Just this morning while you were supposed to be cleaning up, I caught you fighting imaginary bad guys in your room. “Look Mommy at how good I can kick!” you said as you whirled your body around the room, kicking and fighting at the air. You’re imagination is out of control, and I absolutely love this about you.
To tell you the truth, I was a little worried when I found out I was having a son. I thought you were going to come out of the womb climbing the furniture and trying to wrestle with your sister, but instead you waited several years before unleashing that energy. I really appreciate that. Now that you’re a little older and I’m a little wiser, I’m more prepared for the loud, rowdy stages that come with bringing up a boy.
At four years old, you are incredibly silly. You spend most of your time at the dinner table trying to make us laugh. Coincidentally, I spend most of my time at the dinner table telling you to “EAT!” And if pointless knock-knock jokes ever become a talent, you, my son, will be famous. You love to tell jokes that go nowhere.
Then you wait for the laughter. And when knock-knock jokes are no longer a crowd pleaser, you break out the big guns. The freak finger.
I don’t know if your double-jointed or what, but somehow you can bend the top of your pointer finger at the first joint while keeping the middle joint completely straight. And it is really freaky looking. This trait definitely did not come from my genes. So I can only assume that you inherited it from your father’s side of the family. After all, that’s where all the freaky stuff comes from…except for those crooked pinkies. You can blame those on Pop.
Whenever there is a lull in the joke telling or your punch line doesn’t get the reaction that you were hoping for, you start poking yourself in the head with your freak finger, saying “Hard as a rock!” And even though we’ve all seen this gag a thousand times by now, we always laugh. Always. I don’t even know why, but it’s funny.
And while you do make us laugh a good bit of the time, sometimes your mouth gets you into trouble. Ok…a lot of times. In the past year, I’ve had to wash your mouth out with soap more times than I can count…and you don’t even know any swear words yet. Name calling is your Achilles’ heel, and you are learning a hard lesson about how we treat each others. About once every two weeks, you’ll lose control of your tongue, and I’ll make you stand on a stool at the kitchen sink and hold a bar of soap in you mouth for two minutes. When the timer goes off, you’re allowed to rinse. You cry and spit, spit and cry, all the while apologizing for the ugly things you’ve said.
And you are truly remorseful. In fact, your apologies are so sincere that I often find myself tearing up. “I’m sorry for saying all the bad things, Mommy. I’m so sorry for all the bad things.” You’ll say as you throw your arms around me, squeezing me tight. I love your apologies, Roark. They show a tender side of you that makes me love you that much more. I hope you never lose that tenderness and the willingness to admit when you’ve done wrong.
I went to a funeral today for a woman who was 87 years old when she died. She was a mother to six children and spent the majority of her life being a homemaker. The church was completely packed. You know, that’s really unusual for a woman of her age, but she had touched so many people with her life that we all came to pay our respects. I believe that most of those people were like me and weren’t there because they were close to her necessarily, but because they loved her children.
As I sat there in the pew listening to her sons and daughters honor her in this beautiful ceremony, my thoughts kept coming back to you and your sister. One day, you will be my legacy, Roark. You and Edie. The two of you are what I’ll have to show for my life’s work.
As a mother, it’s so easy to get bogged down in the daily rituals of the mundane like making PB&Js or tying laces on little shoes. Sometimes I forget the bigger picture. Most nights as I climb into bed, it doesn’t feel like I’ve really accomplished anything significant for that day. Maybe I washed some clothes, took you roller skating, cooked dinner, but when my head hits the pillow, I often wonder, “Is this it? Is this all I’m supposed to be doing with my days? There has to be something more to it.”
Lately this has really been a struggle for me, but today, I had a moment of clarity. God reminded me of the bigger picture. Maybe I only took you roller skating that day, but when you fell down, I held your hand and pulled you up. Sure, I occasionally wash your mouth out with soap, and I teach you to control your tongue. I cook your dinner every night and give you quality time to laugh with your family around the table. Those things aren’t mundane. They are precious moments. They are my life’s work being poured into you to mold you into a man. A man who loves God, cherishes his family, and respects others. That will one day be my legacy.
Never again will I say at the end of the day, “There has to be something more,” because quite honestly, I can’t believe how much I have.