Monday was kind of a glorious day in Chicago. Over sixty degrees and holding a whisper of warmth to come. Like a movie trailer to the upcoming season, rated G for giddy. The snow that started accumulating in December and just never left, well, it finally did. Poof. Gone. All that remains of it are the photos and traumatic flashbacks, er, memories I mean.
We had a late afternoon play date at the local park with friends. This is one of those good old fashioned parks with wood chips under your feet instead of odd rubber recycled stuff. The trees are still naked and the grass is still brown, recuperating. Children and adults alike looked happy and relaxed. It was lovely.
This was my first time at the park with both boys since last fall. Man, I was shocked by how much Mary Tyler Son has changed. I don’t know if it was just being cooped up all winter or that his friend was there and he was feeling adventurous, but he was more physical than I had ever seen him. Zipping in and out of the wooden fortresses, dodging from view more often than made me comfortable. I was grateful for the bright green jacket he was wearing — easier to spot in the sea of kiddos.
At one point, he jetted off. Running, running, running — away, away, away. He went far enough that I thought it necessary to shout his name out. He couldn’t hear. That boy was busy, and it was clear he had an agenda. I chased after him, Mary Tyler Baby in tow. I finally found him about eight feet off the ground, climbing a tree. Man, what a sight to see.
This was the same tree I remember him trying to climb last fall and feeling intimidated by it. Pffft. There was no intimidation Monday afternoon. My boy conquered that tree. He looked fearless and happy and free. He needed a scolding for running away without telling me, “But I told my friend,” he said. I didn’t have it in me. I was too busy standing back and seeing my boy for the boy he was growing into. A more adventurous boy, a climbing boy, a monkey swinging from vines kind of boy.
That is the boy I want to encourage. That freedom in movement, that joy in play, that satisfaction in conquering trees. I don’t take any of that for granted. Each milestone my boy reaches is another milestone I reach as his parent. Each thing Mary Tyler Son grows into is something his older sister never got to do. I revel in that just as I imagine Donna does, too, somewhere.
Tonight, up late after crashing early, I found myself doing the things I wished I had done earlier — the dishes, sorting laundry, getting a few things settled for the morning rush. I found Mary Tyler Son’s muddy shoes at the back door. I meant to clean them yesterday, but didn’t get to it. There they sat, at the back door, just where he took them off Monday afternoon.
As I reached for the cloth to clean them a bit so he could wear them to school tomorrow (am I the only Mom who cleans her son’s muddy shoes?), there was a gut check, visceral, about just how lucky I am to clean the muddy shoes of a healthy, thriving, joyful five year old boy. I am the mom of a boy who runs and climbs trees and brushes the hair from his eyes as he looks to the next higher branch.
This boy is going places and I get to watch him. And clean the mud from his shoes. And choose to cheer him on rather than scold him.
Is there anything better?