I pulled into the driveway after grabbing a few items from the grocery store. Spring weather had newly sprung so all the neighborhood hooligans ran around outside. Jack paused from the kid mischief going down in our front yard and turned in my direction. From the serious look on all the other kids’ faces, some mystery needed to be solved or monster defeated. It could have been in the middle of their favorite game, ghost in the graveyard, I’m not sure. (I still don’t understand that game, no matter how many times the boys explain it to me. All I know is there are ghosts and zombies and all them end up running from their hiding place screaming bloody murder. Normally, I have to check about four times each game to make sure nobody has been murdered or maimed.)
When he saw me pull the car in, surprise and shock spread all over Jack’s face. Immediately, he ran over to the driver side window and motioned for me to roll the window down. I obliged.
Jack: You are back so soon!
Me: Yeah, I only got three bags worth of groceries.
A satisfying realization changed his body language. His shoulders and core relaxed.
Jack: OOOH. I thought you were going hardcore shopping.
Then he leaned into the car for a hug and smacked me on the cheek.
Jack: I’m so glad you’re home. You smell like mac and cheese.
And with that compliment given (and it was the highest of high accolade because mac and cheese is his favorite food in all the world), he hopped off to go back to playing with the neighborhood juvenile delinquents. I brought my apparently non-hardcore groceries into the house with a smile and a warm glow in my heart.
Jack doesn’t crack open like that very often. Most of the time he is inside his own head, a habit he gets very honestly. But when it happens, he can make you feel like a million bucks. I’m not sure if he knows his own power over Tim and I. If he ever tells us we smell like mac and cheese again, we both may just roll over and give him anything he wants. We best not let him in on this secret weapon of words.
Maybe I’m more impressionable because as the boys get older, the more nostalgic I get. The baby and toddler snuggles have been replaced with video game hangouts, deep dinner conversations or goofing around in the rare moments we don’t have somewhere to be. Each of them are coming into their own and it is so fun to be a spectator. From day one, Tim and I treated them as individual whole people, not half adults or big people in waiting. But the older they get, the more their individuality shines. They have more of their own ideas to share and more opinions to formulate. Slowly they are separating from us. Physically, the need us less and less as the days accumulate, but emotionally we are still their guiding star. Normally this evolving would make me sad, but I know that they will always be our boys, whether they are little or not.
Today Jack is nine. Our baby is nine. NINE. He is goofy and smart and sensitive. His self proclaimed nickname is Sweet Fart, but he is still Jackie and Jackanoonie to us. Last week, he hit his first home run, a three-run home run no less. He is still a string bean, but no longer little in any sense. Recently, all four of us have a new obsession: Magic the Gathering. This game elevates our nerd to a whole other level and we are proud. So far, Jack has beat us more than he has lost. One on one, I have been unable to win against him. He’s a wiley, strategic, smart one, that baby Jack.
I am thankful I get to watch him in action everyday. And for the individual he is and the layers he is adding on. I am thankful for his sense of humor that he gets from Tim (instead of me, thank goodness). And for his mechanical, crazy smart mind. I am thankful I smell like mac n cheese to him and that he still kisses me on the cheek in front of his friends. I am thankful for the previous Jack, the now Jack and the Jack to come. All of them will always be my baby, even the future Jack, no matter how big and tall he grows.