When my son was a baby he would grab my face on either side with his hands and plant a big open mouthed kiss on my cheek. When he could walk, he wouldn’t leave my side. My husband was often hurt because Kai would always choose to be with me. Meeting his needs was easy.

I mistakenly thought that Kai would be a little replica of his older sister. Following every rule, knowing what to say at the appropriate time, wanting to please his parents, of course he would have all of these qualities. After all, I was his mother.

One day when Kai was three we took a trip to the mall. At that time Eric and I had five children living with us. Arielle was the oldest at seven and we had a sibling group of three who were in temporary foster care. It was past bedtime, and I had one more item I needed to purchase. I knew better. Kai decided he wanted to go in the candy store. Eric and I didn’t think this was a good idea. Kai threw a huge tantrum, throwing himself on the ground and screaming. I was horrified, but Eric and I were always of the mentality that no meant no and to give in would only make matters worse in the future. Eric scooped up Kai to carry him to the car. Kai kicked and screamed at the top of his lungs, “help! this man’s hurting me!” A security guard followed Eric out to his car.

A year later, Kai is in nursery school. He comes home with a picture he made. I can’t tell what it is, so I ask him the appropriate teacher question, “tell me about your picture.” He tells me it is a picture of Jesus. Immediately I get a sense of pride. I am a great mother, my son is drawing pictures of Jesus. I continue,”tell me more about your picture.” He says….  “It’s a picture of Jesus smoking a cigarette.”
My pride deflated, a smile crossed my face. That’s when I knew my son was his own glorious being and as much as I tried to shape him he would still shine in his own light. He was not his sister and I had to stop expecting him to be like her.

Now, he is weeks away from turning eleven. Eric has become his hero and I am left wondering how to connect with my son. I have no interest in video or computer games. I squint and shake my head at things he finds humorous. He and my husband laugh and laugh at situations I wouldfind disgusting or violent. Just the other day I told him how Lisa Yee puts peeps in the microwave as a Halloween tradition. Kai laughed so hard his face scrunched up and he had to force a deep breath to gain composure. I watched in amazement. I simply found microwaving peeps an interesting tradition. Maybe Lisa Yee grew up with brothers.

I suppose turning thirteen was my downfall because up until that point I was a tomboy. Most of my friends were boys and I even broke my foot playing football. I told people when I grew up, I was only having boys, three to be exact. That was my perfect imagined family. Now, here I am trying to bring back those early days when it was easy to relate to boys.

The other night I was peacefully reading in bed. Kai came in needing attention. He jumped on the bed and sat on top of me. My first instinct was to get him to calm down. Then I remembered. I remembered those days in fifth grade when my neighbor Greg and I wrestled endlessly in the snow. I remembered how we spent hours together playing board games. I remembered the giant mud slide we found while camping. We were covered from head to toe in gushy wet mud. I tickled Kai until he fell off the bed in hysterics. Afterward, he snuggled up close to me and we watched the History Channel together. A small victory for me.

Kai was born into a family of firstborns and he has had to forge his path through high expectations and a sister who receives a lot of attention because of her disability and very talkative nature. I’m wondering how all of these experiences are shaping the man he will become. In the meantime I’m going to dig deep into my memory and relive those days when boys were my best friends. I believe the key is active time. Unlike his sister he doesn’t want to sit and discuss people and relationships.He wants to build a Star Wars ship out of Legos or blow away villains in a video game. (Or shoot dart guns) I hear machine gun dart fire coming from his room.

When did I become so busy laundry took precedence over sitting down and playing a game with my son? Years from now when Kai thinks of me, I want him to remember a mom who spent time with him. Just like I can reach back to those fond memories of playing electric football with Greg, I want Kai to know he had a mother who cherished him enough to spend time doing things he enjoyed. I don’t think he’ll grow up saying, “Ya, my mom was great, my laundry was always done and neatly organized in my closet. She’s the best!”

I’m going to set a goal of having a new way to connect with my son every week for six weeks. Today is a beautiful day for an outdoor dart gun battle. The girlie girl in me says, “Couldn’t we just count going to see The City of Ember today, as this weeks connection?” The tomboy is returning and she says, “get your butt out there and shoot some darts!”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lisayee
    Oct 28, 2008 @ 21:17:22

    I have one brother, but have always been something of a tomboy. I do have a son, and we enjoy blowing Peeps up together all the time.
    I do hope that Kai gets around to blowing some Peeps up. I think you’ll enjoy it too!


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The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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