My two youngest sisters are nine and eleven years younger than me, and since much of my high school was spent helping care for them (which I loved), and I even went to college close by in large part so I wouldn’t miss their growing up, I still get amazed when I see two professional, adult women sitting at my kitchen table or hanging out at my parents’ house who look an awful lot like those little girls but are so … grown up. Because of them, I’m a little familiar with the feeling of “living vicariously” through others’ experiences—reliving my own high school, college, and post-grad years through hearing about theirs—but I wasn’t quite prepared for how intensely it would hit me when my oldest started eighth grade this year.
I mean, this is his third year of middle school, so it’s not like we’re doing anything all that new. He’s basically doing all the same things that he’s been doing, except for having joined a school team, and maybe that’s what’s doing it to me: watching him run Cross Country at about the same age I was when I started running Cross Country, for the same school, at the same home course, is knocking me over with memories.
It’s also knocking me over with … I’m not sure what the word for “crying my eyes out all the time” is? Verklempt, I guess: “overcome with emotion, choked up.” I’m verklempt watching him run with the same intensity he brings to everything he thinks is worthwhile (just like his dad), seeing him as part of a high school team, hearing his older teammates cheering him on during the races, getting texts from him after away meets letting me know how he did. Even the care he takes getting his bag together every morning before school with what he needs for after-school practice, with no help needed from me, undoes me a little.
I’m pretty sure I wrote about all this before (last month, the month before, etc.), and it’ll likely continue popping up going forward, since being verklempt is my current life.
I was thinking, in light of all these big-boy things (teenage things even! We now have a teenager!) we do as a family these days, how much I really love seeing our youngest do the little-boy things that had been our entire life until recently.
Like, on a recent morning, while driving the bigger boys to school, he kept yelling, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at me! Look at me!”
“I can’t look while I’m driving!” I’d said, and he responded, “Well, I look amazing.” Indeed, when we arrived at school and I was able to take a look I laughed out loud—he had on orange kiddie construction goggles, his Spider Man baseball hat, and the hood of his Toy Story coat pulled up over his hat. And a huge grin, of course.
If you were to visit our house at a random time during the day while his big brothers are at school, you might find him watching old-timey Spider Man episodes and eating cheese crackers out of a Minions bowl, or selecting books for me to read. He loves Green Eggs and Ham, and other recent choices were a book about Star Wars, one about puppies, and The Velveteen Rabbit. He’s got a bruise under one eye from a vigorous go-round in a bouncy bounce at school’s recent Family Fun Night, and he jumps everywhere, with two feet, like a little frog or bunny rabbit—across the parking lot on our way into school, back to our seats after having accompanied me to receive Communion at Mass, up and down our front steps, every single time.
I sent him to his room a little while ago for angrily throwing things when he didn’t like the lunch I made for him (a cheese sandwich he told me he wanted), and I just went to check on him because he was being awfully quiet, and there he was asleep, just where he’d thrown himself in his fit of temper, and, funny enough, a little frown still on his face. While I was up there I checked on my oldest, and discovered that he, too, had dozed off, after having completed a several-mile run. Oh, my heart.
It’s a blessing and a burden being the oldest and the youngest, especially when your mother is verklempt over every single thing you do. But it’s not just the oldest and the youngest, of course—when I came back downstairs from checking on them and sat back down where I’d been on the couch with my middle guys, watching a movie, two of them snuggled up against me (one of the olders and one of the youngers), another was eating the lunch he’d made for himself (!), another was just watching the movie barefoot and relaxed, I was, yes, verklempt with the blessings of these boys. Each one of them doing what they should be doing at the ages they’re at—new things, familiar things, good things, mischievous things. This motherhood things is not for the faint of heart.