My 9 year old, Nathan, has been doing my head in lately. And by doing my head in I mean sending me batshit crazy. He has taken defiant to a whole new level and is throwing moodswings at me with the speed and agility of something that is really quick and agile. This week I was ready to sell him for a bottle of gin. But to be totally honest, I would have paid someone to take him away. This whole ‘you can’t make me, it’s my life’ attitude that has taken over his body has appeared prematurely and without warning. I have always expected it, but not so early. I’m not ready for that. I’m not prepared to enter into a relatively grown up argument with a child. And, despite his best argument, he IS a child. He hasn’t even hit double digits yet!
It’s weird watching something that you grew in your belly ‘become’. It’s even weirder to realise how little their ‘becoming’ has to do with you… and how much. He’s becoming a real person. With his own opinions and feelings and preferences. His body is changing. His voice is changing. He is growing up and out and most importantly, within.
This week was his junior school drama production. Two year two classes and two year four classes all performed one act per class. Nathan’s class had the fourth act. The three acts preceding it were excruciating. Not to say that the kids weren’t all awesome and cute and talented and funny. It’s just that I’m tired and grumpy and really couldn’t give a shit about anyone else’s kid [and just for the record, I know and love some of those kids but would still rather be home in my tracksuit drinking wine].
When the curtain rose on Act 4, I waited begrudgingly for my kid to do his thing, quickly, so we could get out of there. And then he walked out on stage and my heart skipped a little bit and my smile spread so wide that my face almost turned inside out. That was my boy. On stage. In the spotlight. With a gorgeous, strong and loud voice he delivered his lines flawlessly. I could sense his entire essence from my seat in the dark. I could see his confidence like an aura and fuck that made me proud. This was the same boy who was TERRIFIED of even the thought of performing only two years before. I watched him. And I saw him. When you love a 9 year old boy, it’s not often that you have the opportunity to just sit and watch. They’re always moving or scowling or catching you spying on them. But last night, I surrendered to the good fortune of my son performing. I have no idea what his act was about and I don’t know what anyone else was doing because I just could not take my eyes off him. I watched the way his body moved and his head tilted when he was listening. I watched his face light up like sunshine when he laughed. He was beautiful. He IS beautiful.
Loving a 9 year old boy is not always easy to do. It means there are times that he seems to have no interest whatsoever in anything that comes out of your mouth unless it involves football or Pokemon cards. There are times that he will have three helpings of dinner, gulped down without any regard for table manners and a week later a declaration that he HATES that exact same dish and he can’t believe he is expected to eat it. It means he no longer comes to the ladies toilets with me and fiddles with the stereo knobs from the front passenger seat in my car. It’s a time of slamming doors and lots of rolling eyes. My days are unpredictable with my 9 year old. Some days he is entirely full of boyish love for me and happy to cuddle up next to me on the couch for hours and other days it’s almost like he wishes everyone, including me, would just disappear. There’s a lot of bashing up the younger brother and passionate refusal to do the simplest and most regular of things. Like showering and brushing teeth. And the attitude. Oh my lord, what is with the attitude?! That’s not what I was pitching for when I was gently shaping my toddler. I’m all for my kids having their own mind, I just wish it was more like mine y’know?
So, sure it’s not easy but man it’s rewarding. Watching him from the dark of the audience while he was on stage was sublime. In one of the scenes, all the boys had to dance/walk on stage to Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. And there was mine, entering stage left. All rhythm and swagger. Following the choreography with perfect timing, singing along word for word. I was fixated on his facial expressions and the way he held himself tall and proud. I was in awe of him. Up there, on stage, completely independent of me. I watched him confidently cross the stage at the end of the performance to hand out the gifts to the volunteers and shake their hands. He didn’t tell me about that. He doesn’t tell me lots of things these days. I sat there and understood that I’m just not so necessary to his everything anymore. My boy is on his way to becoming a man and his mum is on her way to becoming obsolete. Once he looked to me for all the answers. Now it seems that he's always looking away. Into the world. I don’t expect the ride to be easy but nothing worthwhile ever is.
What’s it like to love a 9 year old boy? Consuming. Heart warming. Heart breaking. Exasperating. Exhausting. Uplifting. Tumultuous.
And worth every bit of it.