He does his best sharing with me right before he sleeps. At almost seven, his days are spent being big, strong…brave. Everything between even the best of friends is a competition. Who is the tallest, fastest, the best counter to one hundred. Every second of his day is graded by increments of achievement, even though we the parents encourage the growth rather than the goal. It takes a while to shed this skin of bigness, it takes coming home, relaxing, bathing, and finally being tucked into bed and suddenly, again, he is little. Well, not really little but smaller. Released from competition he snuggles up next to me, places his forehead right against mine.
It is this time of day that is my favorite with him, it is this time of day he spills out all the stories he has to tell.
This evening his eyes grow cloudy in the dim light of the baseball night light illuminating our cocoon. I remember when he was born thinking I had never seen eyes that color, eyes that are truly cerulean blue. Once walking through an art gallery with him when he was tiny a woman stopped me to tell me what beautiful eyes she had. When I told her he was a boy, she said shaking her head what a shame. I thought that was a silly thing to say, as if beautiful eyes were wasted on a boy.
He furrows his brow, the smattering new spring freckles spattered across his nose barely visible and whispers, “I have something to tell you.” He is very serious and I prepare myself. There have been troubles at school with a boy in his class. Last week he tackled my son to the ground twice telling him he wanted him to stop breathing, and later that he wanted him to die. We’ve been talking about ways he can stand up for himself without making the situation worse and my heart aches that kindergartners can cross the line from play to cruelty so easily.
He takes a deep breath, ready to talk after a long pause. “I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t want to hurt your and grandma’s feelings.” I reassure him that he can tell me anything and remind him that if he feels he can’t tell me or someone says he shouldn’t tell me, those are the most important things to share. Then I reassure him that grandma and I are grown ups. That it is very sweet that he wants to protect our feelings but that is not his job. Our job is to protect him, not the other way around. While I am saying these words, whispering in the half dark, my mind is racing. What on EARTH could he be about to say. Finally, he is convinced I won’t be mad and I promise I will tell grandma for him. That’s my job, I say and kiss his still sun warmed forehead.
“I am just over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You and grandma always buy me turtle stuff and I am over them, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I know you buy it for me cause you love me and think I love them, but I don’t anymore.”
It’s hard not to laugh one of those oh that is the sweetest thing laughs, but I don’t because he will think I am laughing at him, another newly introduced concept thanks to this boy at school. “Oh honey!” I say “I am so glad you told me that. You’re right we do get it for you because you liked it. But it’s good you’re growing up and moving on to new interests! Never be afraid to tell us who you are right now! Grandma and I love YOU no matter what you like! ”
Such a small thing to me, such a large worry for him. We spent the rest of bedtime chatting about his new interests and what he likes now. I am not sure how to make sure we always have these little windows of time where we can talk like this, I know as he grows older and more independent the opportunities will shrink, at least for a while. But for now I am grateful to lay forehead to forehead and stare into those beautiful blue eyes as he quizzes me on all the names of the Skylanders.