Friday, October 22, 2010

Ice Cold Soy Milk, Omnipresence and Growing Up

Lately my child has taken to making really specific requests of us. Whereas in the past, I could count on him to ask for a "drink" or a "snack", now I most often hear things like. "Mom, I could really use some ice cold soy milk and thinly sliced apples." Um, ok. Glad you specified since I was planning on giving you warm, spoiled milk. Sometimes it feels like he is three going on 15. Throw in the mood swings of late, rooted in his desire to abruptly and adamantly refuse to nap anymore, and it does feel like I'm living with a teenager.  Last week he even started a sentence with the word "apparently" (used correctly, by the way) and went on to tell us a delightfully narrated story about a friend of his from school.

It's funny to watch a whole person develop. To go from drooling, high-maintenance, non-sleeping, refusal-to-eating, crying machine to physically miniature version of your husband who has specific desires, interests and quirks, someone who can generally hold a reasonable and rational conversation and asks to go to bed when he's "too tired to keep my head up."  And I think to myself, as I'm interacting with this tiny human, "how in the world did he become who he is?" The answer to some of those questions are easy. Where did he get that funny way he quirks his mouth after he asks a question? Well, Reed does that exact thing. Why is he a perfectionist? Both parents, bingo.  Why does he need to know the meaning to every word ever spoken in his presence? I'll take credit for that, thank you very much.

But the bigger things. What causes him to absolutely shiver with joy at the passing of any kind of construction site? Why is he completely fascinated by his esophagus and trachea and can tell you at any given moment what part of his body his food is now working its way through?  Why does he hang back at social events for at least 15 minutes before he engages anyone besides us?  Why does he always, always wake up at 7 am on the dot, always follow the exact routine(bathroom, get dressed, play with matchbox cars for roughly 2.3 minutes) and then come smashing into my room and wake me up with the words, "Mom, are you ready to play?" And why does he always ask me questions that are way beyond what I think he should be worrying about. "Mom, if God is with me, is he also able to be with someone on the other side of the world?" Hmm. Omnipresence definitely sounds like a topic for a 3-year old. Don't even ask me how I tried to answer that one.

One of my favorite songs when I was younger was "I Won't Grow Up" from Peter Pan.  Some of you might know it- my favorite line is "If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!" I sing this song a bunch and then like to tell Josh that I don't want him to ever grow up, that I like him just the way he is. He'll usually say something ridiculous like, "Nooo, Mom, I'm GOING to grow up and be big and strong just like you and Daddy. You can't stop me!"  But there are days I wish I could just freeze him. Stop time at this sweet phase of unabashed curiosity, where the world is this huge, mysterious place to be explored and conquered, and where his new pajamas with rockets on them bring him more joy than just about anything else I could think to give him.

This whole parenting thing takes a lot of trust.  It's hard for me to think of sending him off on a school bus to kindergarten in less than two years and not knowing what is really going to be said to him by other kids or if he's going to be bullied on the playground.  I have no control over some of the words he will hear in his young life or what mature concepts might get introduced to well before I'm ready to explain them. I can't predict who he'll meet and what kinds of teachers he'll have and who our neighbors will be when we move, most likely, for Reed's post-doc in a few years. All I can do is play with him a ton now, answer his crazy questions to the best of my ability, help him understand who God is and pray like crazy that he'll himself trust God enough to help him through the challenges to come.  That's hard, friends. That's so hard when I want to be in control of everything that happens to him!

But, as I step back and watch him in this growing up thing I'm struck anew by how crazy God is. By how beautiful it is that he's told us to have faith like a little child because when I hear the questions my son asks about God, when I hear his trust that God is with him and answers his prayers and will give him courage for the things he's afraid of, I'm reminded that sometimes I just make things too complicated. I worry too much about so many little questions, about ridiculous things like whether my son will lock himself in his room when he's a teenager, that I can just miss the bigger picture, miss the ways that God is changing me and growing me as I watch my own son grow.

So, I'm trying to step back a little from all those little ways I could panic. Let myself chuckle when the soy milk requests come and help him know that no matter how he changes or how quickly it seems he grows up, God and I are right beside him all the way.

And that we'll never, never be too old to climb a tree!