“Mom, check out this tiny grasshopper!” says my son as he waves a humongous booger in my face. Yes, my son is one of those boys. A real boys will be boys kid with two little sisters and a strong, testosterone-filled, 7-year-old urge to ninja kick them “in the privates.”

Growing up, I had two older brothers and really viewed myself as a tomboy (Is that even a saying anymore? Wow, I feel old.) because I enjoyed being outdoors and didn’t mind getting dirty. As it turns out, I am very much girl.

My beautiful son is constantly grossing me out and frustrating me to no end with his . . . well, boy-ness.

He climbs over railings. He uses sticks as swords. He’s a “Look mom! No hands!” kid if there ever was one. Above all, he wants to be sure his younger siblings know who’s the strongest, and I’m in a perpetual state of reminding him to be gentle.

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I used to sit down and wonder when my calm 5-year-oldthe one who made me a “Best Adult Award” and encouraged his sisters as they learned to ride their scootersturned into a push my every button big kid. When did my life turn from a deeply rewarding parenting experience to a reprimanding, nagging, hide in the bathroom kind of life?

And then, it happened. As I was doing my best to walk silently past his bedroom door and into my own room for a quiet moment, I saw him. I didn’t see my wild 7-year-old. I saw my precious guymy thoughtful boy who loves to quietly build LEGOs and rarely gets time alone in the room he shares so patiently with his sisters.

Memories of moments he and I had shared came flooding back.

Days when his sisters were younger and still napped, those peaceful afternoons sitting together, just the two of us, playing. Sure, now he’s made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails,” but he’s still that little introvert somewhere deep inside. He likes to have time uninterrupted by his siblings, and by some miracle, today he was getting that chance.

Instead of tiptoeing by, I walked slowly inside and sat on the edge of the bed to ask him what he was making. “Mom, do you want to watch me build a helicopter?” he asked expectantly. I sat with himjust us twoas he explained in great detail why he was choosing each piece he dug from his big LEGO bin. An hour passed that felt like five minutes. Eventually, his sisters came in and world war 3 commenced.

But that small moment with my son was a great lesson to me.

Now, when I see him having trouble with his sisters, I ask him to join me in doing an activity and am always pleasantly surprised when he chooses peaceful calm with meevery single time.  

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I know these days aren’t forever. As my mother-in-law, who has four boys once told me, “Boys love you so much until they’re around 12 . . . and then, they just stop talking to you.” I wish I had realized how much my big boy wants one-on-one time sooner, but now that I know he can hang with me without talking about bodily fluids, I’m going to do my best to find those quiet moments for us as long as he’ll let me.

Vanessa Dueck

Vanessa Dueck is a stay-at-home mom to three imaginative, beautiful, infuriating children. When I'm not playing UNO, you'll find me running trails and dreaming of qualifying for the 2024 USA Olympic trials!