Thursday, October 25, 2007

First Fight

A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to us that Bub will turn seven in a very short time. Though he is growing older, we perceived him as a child much younger. It was hard for us to recognize Bub at his age. In fact, he still had training wheels on his bike, and he'd never been out from under this ever-watchful mommy's eye. Ever. I mean, he has been in school, but I have spies. I check in all the time. Outside of school, and church, and the childcare center at the movie theatre, he's always been with me.

As terrified as it made me feel, I realized it was time (way past time, in fact) to begin loosening those apron strings, which is why a couple of weeks ago we dedicated our Sunday to launching him into the world. He learned to ride his bike without training wheels.

By last Saturday, he didn't need my help at all and was off and riding completely alone. I remained outside with him doing work in the yard, but when I was finished, he wasn't. I had to begin making dinner, so I caught him as he was whizzing by to say, "Don't get off your bike. Don't leave your bike anywhere. Don't get run over by a car. Don't get in the car with anyone. Don't talk to strangers. Don't get kidnapped. Don't run your bike into anyone's car, particularly that Lexus right over there. Don't go into anyone's house or backyard. Don't run over your sister, any animals, or any of the neighbors. And for goodness sake, Bub, be careful. I'll be back in five minutes." And with that, I went inside, closed the door, and left my baby to fend for himself in this big, bad world.

Those five minutes were the longest of my life, and probably the very best of his. Because that fact was very obvious, I knew it was time for more. Yesterday, Gracie had ballet. We stopped at the store to pick up something to prepare for dinner, and on the way home to do that, we drove past a cluster of little boys playing soccer four houses away from home on our cul-de-sac street. Both kids knew all these little kids from the bus and from school, so I offered to stop and let them out. On the street. Without me. They have never moved so fast to get out of a car. I'm not even sure I had come to a full and complete stop.

I left them, but watched them as I went in and out of the house to put away groceries. They both looked so cute, and so big, and they sounded even bigger as they coordinated their glorious adventures with the neighborhood children (really, it was just the task of getting this soccer ball to that manhole, but when you're six going on seven, little else is so glorious). Gracie quickly tired of all the loud boys and came home to help me make crab cakes, but Bub stayed out for about eight "just five more minutes, puh-leeze" segments until I drug him inside to wash up and eat.

Bub has never been more alive as he was when he came in from playing alone. He had so much fun and went on and on about this game or that race or the cat whose tail they pulled. As I was explaining why cats tails shouldn't be pulled, I realized my letting go a little more and a little more often is the very best gift I could ever give him, and while admiring this new light in his eyes, I resigned myself to it.

So today, Bub barreled off the school bus and into the house, yelling, "Mom, mom, can I go play with the twins?" I agreed without reluctance for the first time in my life. He wolfed down a snack and raced out the door. Moments later, he came home to ask if he could ring their doorbell because they were not outside. I instructed him to ring only once, to be polite, and to let me know what the answer was. (I failed to tell him to run down to let me know -- he stepped to the sidewalk to yell from four houses away, "Hey mom, the parents are nice! They said they can come out and play!") I went back inside to leave him to the world once again, but this time, it felt okay.

Bub played outside for about an hour. I checked on him every ten minutes or so, and I could see he was following the rules and having a great time. I did notice at every check that the number of boys increased. It had been Bub and one other, but just before I went in, there were six more boys. We knew two who were Bub's age and size, but the other five were bigger, ranging in size, but none probably older than the fourth grade. Regardless, they were all playing soccer, and seemed to be having fun.

At about that one hour mark, I came inside, put dinner in the oven, and made a quick phone call before calling him in. About five minutes into the phone call, Bub came inside in obvious distress. He said, "Mom, something very bad has happened," and I thought, "Did a pedophile just buy the house next door? Did someone get run over by a car or mauled by a rabid dog?" He looked confused, not sure of what to tell me, or even of what had just taken place. As he started crying, he started blubbering about the ball and some boy swinging him around and scraping his hands and knees on the concrete. And then he said, "Those big boys were mean to me. They had a fight with me."

As he continued to cry, I headed out the door. I mentioned a few posts back that I'm a mama bear. I really am. I will say that though my rambunctious little ADHD (emphasis on the H) prodigy can easily drive me to the very edge of the very last fiber of a set of worn-thin nerves, I am always on his side. As I marched that four-house stretch to confront those mean little boys, I reminded myself that it's not okay to beat up children. Despite that, I had to get to the bottom of the situation, and pick up his scooter that was left on the curb.

Even after confronting those boys (with kindness, though I wanted to be mean), I still don't know exactly what happened. Bub said they fought with him for no reason. They said he wouldn't give their soccer ball back. Both scenarios are highly possible. These "boys will be boys" moments are so very hard to take! The bottom line is Bub lived three glorious days in the world while out from under my watchful eye. It is hard for me not to focus on the fact that after only three days the world hurt him, but instead I'm trying to remember all the fun he had and the light that sparked -- the one that despite every effort I could not create.

I reminded (or instructed) the mean boys that violence is not the answer, and I appreciated Bub for his decisions in the fight. He stood up for himself when he told them he wasn't a "Stupidhead" as they claimed, and he came home instead of making things worse.

This struggle is so intense because I'm so protective. After our many struggles with him (adoption and ADHD) and with life in general (deaths and whatnot), I prefer to just keep him close. As for Bub, we have taught him what is right, and now we have to teach him what is reasonable. I know I have to come to terms with boys being boys. This first fight is a learning experience for us all, and part of me wishes I would have just left the training wheels on.


  • Amy

    You poor things! I am sorry that that happened... for both of your sakes.

  • Christy

    Boys!!! Ya know fighting is just a rite of passage... Once they beat the crap out of each other they become the best of friends. Sounds like he handled the situation well and since his "Mommy" didn't make too big a deal out of it, he's still "cool".
    It's still so hard to let them grow up. Chelsea was 15/16 years old before we left the old neighborhood and I still worried when she wanted to walk to the convenience store or ride her bike around the block. Now she's driving a car clear across the state to check out colleges!!!

  • MJ

    It's hard to let them go. I seem to struggle more and more. I have random days of crying as I watch my two middle school children walk away from my car and into that enormous building with kids who tower over them.

    As humans, as mothers, we hold on tightly--for dear life with one hand, while puching them out the door with the other. I think motherhood is a small snippet of how God feels toward us, his children.

  • The Dukes Family

    It sounds like you handled it really well. I can relate to the struggle to let go and yet still hold them tight ... they are after all, little warriors, and must be allowed to live the adventurous life (a book Phil is reading!). I think we all know men who were coddled their whole lives and none of us can stand them as adults ... so good for you for letting go, one step at a time!

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