My oldest son is nine years old today. It's been a big year for him. We had to start shopping in the men's shoe department. When asked to choose between a cake out of a box that looks like something or a yummier homemade cake, he chose the latter. So after a Lego (7), Bakugan card (6), castle (5), Superman logo (4) and fighter jet (3), he requested the Oreo ice cream cake that his father always picks for his birthday.* And hanging out with him is less straightforward now. He's no longer a bottomless pit of Mommy need like in the early years when he was thrilled to help me throw away trash. These days, sometimes he'd rather listen to his nano or build with Legos than hang out with me. Touching his heart is no longer as simple as throwing him up in the air (for multiple reasons) or tickling him. I've had to pick up a few new tricks. If I offer to scratch his back, he'll almost always come sit next to me on the couch. He's usually up for building with Legos or reading a science book together. And, as is true for men of any age, cooking a favorite meal is a direct path to his heart.**
I still see so much of the toddler he was in the boy he is. It's fortunate that I had him in my twenties when I had a lot of energy. He was not the baby who laughed and clapped his hands for strangers. He was too busy figuring out how the seatbelt clasp worked. We were in Home Depot one day when David was two years old and Chris noticed another dad carrying his toddler, and the child was resting his head on the dad's shoulder. Chris said, "Oh. That looks so nice. I wonder what it's like." At the time David was fighting to get down and start pulling things off the shelves in his unending pursuit to discover HOW THINGS WORK. Fortunately, as with many inconvenient toddler traits, this characteristic is mostly channeled to the greater good now.*** Praise the Lord for Legos and Snap Circuits.
*We had to skip the birthday cake ritual last year because of the move.
** Particularly easy for the nine-year-old crowd whose good will can be won with corn dogs, popsicles and Easy Mac.
*** It's still a problem at times, though. Last week he made slingshots out of pencils, rubber bands, masking tape and Matchbox cars. A few years earlier, before he learned to ask forgiveness instead of permission, he asked for yarn to make a slingshot. Picturing the Y-shaped slingshot and thinking he had little chance at a working model, I provided the yarn. A few minutes later he walked into the kitchen with a long piece of yarn tied to a rock (an ancient slingshot style he'd seen in a preshistory book).
**** This was the last time we did "room time". After a brief, eerily quiet period, I opened the door on this scene. He scaled his dresser drawers and after cleaning his entire body with hand sanitizer, he was trying to trim his toenails.