I don’t normally share my chair.
The kids have dubbed it my “queen chair” and it is my favorite place to sit in the house. The soft-brown striped cushions are enormous and I sink deep into them. My beloved quilt is always folded across the back so it can be easily pulled down for cuddling and comfort. This is where I read, watch TV, craft, drink my morning coffee and have a good cry. It is also where I nursed my babies and read all the Harry Potter books.
I love my chair.
This week I shared it with a special baby, my sweet nephew. I fed him, burped him, played with him and let him nap in my chair. I spent four days with this little guy and I cherished every moment of being his auntie.
But something else happened this week too.
I truly saw my boy.
He is almost 10-years-old and things are changing.
I can remember sitting in my chair with him as a newborn and being so madly in love with him that I wanted to scream it to the world. He became my reason to get up in the morning, to move my body and to love. We did everything together and practically became one.
Now? I barely know this kid.
This week I took both kids roller-skating as a fundraiser for their school. I completely checked out when we got there, spending time chatting with my friends. At some point I see my boy and I reach my arm out to stop him.
“What are you drinking?” I ask him.
“Coke,” he says. “I won it. Didn’t you see?”
“I didn’t say you could have soda?” I reply.
He skates off and I’m angry that he didn’t ask me first, embarrassed I didn’t see him win something and just plain annoyed. I don’t see him again until it’s time to leave, and then I don’t bring it up because I have no fight left. He puts himself to bed and I barely have enough energy to muster a half-hearted kiss goodnight.
The next day we fight in the morning. I make his breakfast and pack his lunch and he takes 700 hours to put his clothes on.
“I have nothing to wear,” he screams from his room.
“I don’t want to hear it,” I yell back. “Get dressed now. You’re going to make us late.”
He finally comes to breakfast with a scowl and barely touches his food.
We go to a birthday party after school and I see him drinking a Pepsi. I call him over and he tries to hide it. I’m furious.
“Where did you get that?” I ask.
“My friend bought it for me,” he says. “Everyone is drinking them.”
“Not you,” I say and take it from him.
I see his anger and hear him tell his friends that I just don’t understand.
Again, I’m too tired to fix things between us.
We come home and fight over homework until bedtime. He is being so lazy and I’m extremely agitated. I yell. He cries. Not sure I even give him a kiss goodnight.
Yesterday we drop sister off at grandmas. We are alone for the first time in a long time and I just want to yell at him. He was poking at his sister the entire drive, he was rude to me and I want to just scream.
Where is my boy?
I miss him.
I miss us.
I look back at him in the mirror and mentally prepare a lecture about responsibility, kindness and not being a jerk to his mother.
But he looks different.
“You OK?” I ask.
“Mom, I need to talk to you about something,” he says.
“OK,” I reply and then brace myself for what I assume will be a barrage of complaints about how unfair I am to not let him play video games, watch TV or drink soda.
I am ready.
“My friend dreamed he kissed a girl,” he says.
“Sometimes I get a funny feeling when I think about girls,” he says.
He tells me about some strange dreams he has had, conversations about sex with friends and how he stood up for his sister at recess.
I listen quietly, asking questions for clarification, but just taking it all in.
He is processing so much, seeing the world differently and he needs me.
He is talking to me.
I haven’t lost him.
Maybe I’m doing something right.
We talk the entire drive.
We talk about what he wants his future wife to be like, how he can be a better friend to someone he knows is struggling, how he really doesn’t like scary things, what he wants for Christmas and how much he loves the Percy Jackson books.
He talks and talks and talks.
I take him in. His long legs and lean body; the way his eyes shine when he gets excited about something; the little smirk he gets when he says something clever; that laugh that he makes with his entire mouth open and his whole body jerking.
I fall in love all over again.
This afternoon I shared my chair with him.
We snuggled under my quilt, took selfies with my phone, giggled and talked.
I’m in love.
No, he isn’t my sweet baby anymore. He is a growing boy filled with wonder, excitement, joy, optimism and hope. He drives me crazy with his boundless fits of silliness and complete inability to just do what I ask, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
He’s my boy.