14

We crossed a small milestone last week that I should have written about at or ahead of time, but apparently thought it would be much more interesting to peck out with one hand. Zack turned 14 on Monday (November 4th) – which was also the day I had a bit of minor surgery scheduled…that actually turned into an entire wrist exorcism. I did have a pre-prepped blog set up for last week and figured I’d knock this one out in the bored hours after leaving the surgical suite.

Fast forward to, well, today and I’m still wrapped up like a pharaoh waiting to be dropped under the nearest pyramid. You know the saying…if you want to hear laughter, tell God your plans. I basically missed most of last week between the dizzying effects of anesthesia and the bliss of Oxy. Rich got so tired of the following conversation that Post It notes began appearing around the house with gentle reminders:

Rich: Hi honey. Why aren’t you wearing your sling?

Me: My sling? Oh, I don’t think I actually have to wear that.

Rich: Sweety, I literally just told you an hour ago that you have to wear it at all times.

Me: Are you sure she (the doctor) said that?

Rich: Yes, remember? Her words were ‘it looked like grenade went off inside your wrist.’

So there’s that. Instead of working on a great blog fit for celebrating a 14 year old, I napped away the hours while waiting for the next food delivery and snuggling between animals.

This may be piece meal. It may involve very short sentences. And it definitely will take many attempts to finish – so know there was effort behind it. I certainly could have skipped it. But Zack is changing so much these days that I feel lead to jot something down as I know next year he will, again, be a totally different kid.

My Zack is proof of nurture over nature, inheriting so many of my traits that it is easy to forget that I missed the first seven years of his life. He is as funny as he is stubborn, as kind as he is determined, as soft as he is tough. He is the definition of love.

I never planned on falling for him. For me, Zack was just one of Rich’s kids – who I’d see on a regular but not all-the-time basis. Within days of meeting, he dropped the old ‘you’re not my mother!’ and I was like ‘oh for sure, I’m cool with that, no worries.’ I thought that’s where we’d stay – didn’t even notice that we were actually bonding and starting to look forward to spending time together, totally clueless.

Until one day, something very sticky and slightly wet landed in my hand while walking to the car at the mall. My logic brain thought ‘oh dear lawd, what the eff is that? Pull away!’ At the exact same moment, my heart brain screamed ‘he’s holding your hand!! Do NOT abort!!’ Oh. Okay. So this was what it felt like to be loved by a grimy eight year old boy. It was probably the first time in my life that I prayed for the car to be parked further away, to give me another minute to decipher this weird, warm, fuzzy feeling in my chest.

That was seven years ago. Zack and I have spent that time growing up very much together. He has stood patiently by my side as I’ve figured out momming and I by his as he’s figured out what to do with this unqualified newbie. It has been easy and it has been a nightmare. I’ve been bitten and I’ve been cuddled. I’ve been stared down in anger and I’ve learned that you always cherish your child’s head resting on your shoulder. I’ve launched myself toward anyone who has tried to hurt him, intentionally or not, and debating launching him off a cliff.

I have come to grips with saying ‘pick up your underwear/towel/shoes/etc’ over and over. I have wondered why there were rocks in the dishwasher or a sword at the dinner table. I have learned that boys require constantly changing and always available ways to release energy, that sitting still is, in fact, difficult. I have traveled with a purse full of Legos, little green army men, books and an occasional Gameboy.

All things that I thought drove me crazy.

Until now. Until this year. When it started to drift away.

This has been a year of transformation as Zack’s begun to leave boyhood behind and dabble his broken foot into beginner manhood. He has grown six inches and looks every bit of a young adult. He carries himself with new maturity and speaks with the deeper voice of a stranger. He lives on a bridge that spans between a careless youth and a responsible adult, moving forwards and backwards as he navigates this new ‘him.’

We have started having conversations about his future as Zack’s begun to discover his intelligence and potential. We have (selfishly?) ignored the school for years as they’ve pushed him to create a learning path, a career plan, skip ahead to this, map out that – instead insisting that he be allowed to be a kid for as long as as possible. But now, it seems, he is beginning to sense his gifts and has developed a quiet determination to grow them.

Yet he is still my little guy. I sit here now, in one room, listening to him farting and giggling at himself in the next. He thinks I can’t hear him with the door in between closed, but I believe he’s going for a symphonic record. He’s recently discovered dramatic knuckle cracking and how much the noise makes me cringe – something that he both enjoys (my full body shutter) and tries to shelter me from (by turning away first).

We talk about girls and Nerf guns and body odor and favorite novels and hair in weird places and memes and the benefits of a good face wash. Our relationship is happily all over the place.

14.

It has suddenly become a countdown of how many (few) years we have left before he will leave us. Or whether it will be weird if I go off to college with him.

Not in the dorm.

Maybe just around the corner though, waiting for him to need me.

***

I thought that was the end. Then I came upstairs and noted a strobe light coming out from under the door of the new 14 year old – the one who I’d sent off to bed ten minutes prior. Upon asking how a strobe light was helping him sleep I was told a) he was trying something and b) no, we couldn’t see because he was naked.

Once again, I don’t know which side of the bridge he’s on. But it makes me smile.

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