“There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.” – Chinese proverb
I used that truth on my son’s high school graduation invitations in 2012. I believed in its veracity then and I believe in it now, particularly when my child recently returned from college for Christmas.
I had not seen him since he walked through security at the Nashville airport on 26 August. When he arrived home for Christmas, I was immediately struck with the physical changes in him. He just looks so grown! His face has lost the last vestiges of boyishness. At 6’2″, he’s a long way from that 20 inch bundle I first held. In Tacoma, he is going to school, working and has taken up bouldering. In listening to him talk about his friends, his roommates, and their activities, I was reminded of when he was little.
I grew up in a small town where my mother was a teacher and Girl Scout leader. My father was a forester, a deacon in our church, a member of the Civil Defense and helped out with the Boy Scouts from time to time. They knew all of my friends, my potential friends, and (often) the parents of all of these kids. If I talked about a kid at school, my parents probably knew more about the kid than I did. It was different for my son. I remember him talking about kids in his pre-K class and being surprised that I didn’t know them. I didn’t know them and I probably never would. It was a strange concept to me. The extension of that idea was that my child, who had depended on me for everything, was beginning to develop a life independent from mine. This human being who had literally shared my body and my blood was establishing himself as a truly autonomous being. It blew my mind.
This trip, he arrived at around 11:20 PM. We talked almost non-stop until 3:30. He shared some of his daily activities, but mostly, he shared his thoughts about society, sexism, politics, history and gender issues. He learns new facts in his classes, but, with his friends, he learns, expands, develops and shares concepts. In sharing those with me, he challenges my own notions. Whether or not he changes my mind, the discourse is engaging and energizing. When he was little, I loved rediscovering my world through his eyes. These days, I find myself rediscovering and/or changing my opinions and beliefs when I see them from his point of view.
Listening to how he is maturing makes my heart swell for I am so proud of the man he is choosing to become. Make no mistake, he’s not perfect – and, thank goodness! Who would want that!? But, he is choosing to be socially, environmentally and fiscally aware and responsible. What a thrill to watch his development!
The morning after his arrival, I woke to find him piled up in his bed with the two dogs who seemed to rejoice that their boy was back. Don’t tell the pups, but he’s my boy. Man that he is, he’s my boy, my child, the only pretty one in the world and I have him.