Saturday, September 24, 2011

Another milestone year for Sammy

VMR_0048 by V'ron
Sammy, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
I'll write about Center Street Daze and Voot's farewell show and more later, but first things first. Today was Sammy's birthday.

This morning as we went to the car to head out to his birthday breakfast, I looked at Sammy and said (as if he needed reminding), "Today's the day. You're eight years old now. You don't need a little kid car seat anymore."

I'm not sure if he or I are more reluctant or more excited about this him growing up thing. On one hand, God help the waitress who brings Sammy's drink in a plastic cup with cartoon characters on the side topped by a lid and straw instead of a regular glass like the big people get. (Actually, God help us. The waitress just has to see the look on his face, like she'd just kicked him in the head.) And his swim trunks are barely staying on, because he insisted he was a Big Boy when ordering them from Lands End, not a Little Boy. He worked hard to test and pass the Camo Belt in Taekwondo just last week, hollering "Yes Sir" whenever the grandmaster addressed him, with all the determination and dicipline of Richard Gere in An Officer and A Gentleman. And with a year of First Grade under his belt, he is no longer a Little Kid.

But that same ferocious boy was a little edgy when I walked him into the advanced class at Taekwondo a couple of weeks ago. "Are you sure I'm supposed to be here? There's grownups in this class. I'm the only {at the time} orange belt." "Yes, your instructor said you were ready to move up to here. Your teacher believes in you and so do I." He turned on a shyness I haven't seen since he was four. He was intimidated. But after a good hour with camo and blue and black belts of all ages, he came out smiling, knowing he belonged there, with the bigger, more experienced folks. There was my boy, walking tall again (and especially tall when he learned he passed his camo belt exam.)

"He'll need a cup," his instructor advised me. That's when it hit me. He's not a little boy anymore. He doesn't need a car seat. He drinks out of glass in restaurants. He's participating in sports that require him to wear a cup: because (and this is the part I'm not ready for) he might get hurt.

Well, it's not like he's been injury free in the past 8 years. He's wiped out on his bike, he went though a particularly clumsy period that cleaned out my bandaid and neosporin supply, his growing pains are especially nasty. He's a sensitive chap whose feelings get hurt when people are mean to him (or even his friends). I'm convinced that heart of gold of his will shine into his old age. But with all the joy that comes with growing up, I have to get ready for the fact that pains-- both physical and emotional -- grow in geometric proportion to his size.

He's already facing it (and I proudly admit, well) in sports. This summer was the first year for real baseball -- three strikes and you're out. Three outs and the other team bats. None of this "everybody bats" crap. None of this "everybody gets to run all around the bases" stuff. That's for little boys. Ahhhh, I think *my* heart sank more when Sammy's when he finally connected really well with a pitch only to have it caught miraculously by some 8 year old beginning shortstop who'd never caught a fly ball before in his life (and may never again!). Sammy just shrugged it off with a "Aw shucks... oh well, that's baseball!" attitude. But the upside is that when he got a genuine base hit, it meant all that much more. The lows are lower, kid, but the highs are higher.

Sometimes he gets so angry or frustrated or sad, and I as mom am learning to deal with it not by always offering instant comfort (oh for the days when a kiss on the noggin cured all ills) but to provide him with the coping tools he'll need to get through. "Here, take this almost rotten peach and smash it against the driveway wall," I say when he's furious that the neighbor boy is being a douchebag to him. "Go practice your drums and play them really loud" I suggest when he can't figure out his homework.

And the higher highs are just as wonderful. There's nothing like high-fiving a kid, a kid who challenges you to raise your hand by your head so that he has to jump his highest ever to high five you. Oh, the moment when he walked confidently out of that advanced class! And his level of humor gets more sophisticated every day, to the point where he can deliver a joke with perfect inflection that has me laughing genuinely, not groaning from a bad pun.

Oh, and try calming him down this week, as he counts the days until his birthday party where all his favorite buddies will be there. He didn't even want a special theme or anything. He just wanted a time when they could all be together and they could yell and run and wrestle and, well, be boys. And that's the joy of having a boy in your life-- watching him grow and make friends, and have his discoveries and his obsessions (I will jump for joy when this Pokemon thing wears off), watching him conquering fears and obstacles, and seeing him walk tall over it all.

 But, I think he, on some level, realizes that there's some things he'll have to leave behind. "Mom," he admitted a couple of days ago, "The car seat is kind of comfortable. We don't have to take it out." 

"Well, it's up to you, buddy," I said, knowing that it's not just about the physical comfort. I hugged him, and he let me kiss him on the noggin. He's only eight years old, you know. Happy birthday my little Sammy Buddy Buddinski!

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