My son is not what you would call one of the “popular” kids at school. People don’t hate him or anything, he’s just not part of that “in” crowd that most children (and as I’ve come to find out), many parents crave.
We were at the pool a few days ago, and I noticed several boys and girls arrived whom I recognized to be part of the “in” crowd at my son’s middle school. There were certainly some handsome boys and pretty girls in attendance; the boys with their side swept hairstyles much like many of the young pop stars popular today, and the girls with their teeny tiny bikinis whispering to each other with crooked smiles and hushed giggling.
They don’t wear goggles or swim shirts, and the boys’ swim trunks hang as low on their waists as the law will possibly allow. I have to resist the urge to walk up to them and pull up their trunks, while brushing all the long hair out of their faces.
I watched this particular group of boys and girls quickly come together dancing to the music playing over loud speakers, flirting, touching, and laughing. One girl walked over to a boy, whispered in his ear, then practically dragged her friend over by the arm and plopped her down on the bench next to the boy. More flirting ensued. I smiled remembering so many years ago being young, flirting and feeling that thrill I felt when a cute boy paid me some attention.
A diving contest began, and the boys took their places at the board ready to perform and show the girls their very best diving moves. One boy began chanting, “No balls, no balls, you have no balls,” as each of the others stepped up on the diving board. Immediately each boy joined in and the girls erupted in giggles. I shook my head, remembering back to the time when I am fairly certain I had acted much the same way.
I looked across the pool, and saw my son, my handsome, sweet, smart, middle school boy, playing with his younger brother splashing him and squirting him with a squirt gun. Clad in a tight swim shirt and a pair of youth goggles, he looked a bit like a large mouthed bass flailing in the water. There was no interest in joining the other boys and girls. There was no self-consciousness that he was playing with a group of younger kids, wearing weird swim gear, and ignoring the pretty girls. He was and is totally OK with who he is.
When my son was in the fifth grade, a few fellow parents and I were volunteering at school and somehow a conversation began about boyfriends and girlfriends. It was very clear to me that while my son was still sleeping in Star Wars themed bedding and asking me to “come snuggle” at night, their children had moved on and started “dating” the opposite sex. One parent described how cute it was that her son and his girlfriend were texting while he was on vacation.
“She was telling my son how much she missed him and couldn’t wait until he got home! It was just so cute!” She smiled.
I was definitely in the minority when I exclaimed, “Ew! That’s not cute! They’re ten and eleven years old!”
Shocked parents looked at me like I had three heads. I shrugged. It was all I could think to do.
Please don’t think I’m judging anyone.There is nothing wrong with any of these children or their parents. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it’s only a matter of time before my son starts acting the very same way his classmates did at the pool. I realize that at any moment, this sweet, good-natured, even-tempered, laid back son of mine will cross over to the dark side and no longer want me to snuggle him at night, scratch his back, or tell him scary stories. The time will come when he outgrows the Star Wars bedding, stupid-looking swim goggles, and maybe even playing with his younger brother.
At some point, he will probably be self-conscious enough that he will start wearing clothing that actually matches, and he will no longer wear sandals with socks. OK- maybe not the sandals with socks part because his father still does that.
And when that time comes, I will weep.
I know they must grow. I know they must become independent, strong, and manly. I just don’t want it to come so soon. They have to grow up so fast, and I don’t want to push it. I don’t want them to mature faster than they already are.
I feel happy to be in this little, protective bubble where my son is a self-proclaimed nerd and proud of it. My heart will break a little when the bubble finally bursts.
So… rather than sit here and wallow in the dread and apprehension of things to come, I am planning to go grab my young sons, take them for ice cream, maybe play at the park, and finish off with a light saber duel. It won’t be long before they’ll be too cool to join me for these adventures.