Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Check me out, babe.

My oldest son is 7. Make that almost 7 and a half. That's important, you know, until you hit 22, when all you have to look forward to growing up is gone.

He's all boy. Rough and tumble and athletically blessed. Always on the go, never tired, never stopping until he drops. Since he first crawled, I've not seen legs that weren't covered in bruises. Or arms. Or his torso. Or face.

And girls! Girls, as a rule, make him gag. His little friends all had little crushes at their schools and daycares. Not him. Even now, in the first grade, there's no one at all that interests him. Which is fine. It'll come.

Except for a little girl in our neighborhood...

I say "little" but she's twice his age. She's adorable -- blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs. And she's cool -- the kind of kid who just is and always has been. The kind of girl who probably will always be out of his league. Bless his little baby heart.

Her little sister is my daughter's very good friend, and she often accompanies her mother and little sister on walks around the neighborhood. I'd noticed that my son would get kind of goofy and aloof in her presence, but it was always such a subtle reaction from him that even though I was surprised, I never thought much of it.

Until one night a couple years ago. Early Spring.

I'd given the kids a bath 0n the early side, looking forward to quiet, quality time with a glass of wine and my husband. Upon coming downstairs, I realized my husband was still outside, so the kids and I went out to see what he was up to (and to give him one final, not-so-subtle hint that it was time to go in). It was dusk, and my son had on these cotton pj's that had glow-in-the-dark rockets on them.

You moms know that unless they're fire-retardant, jammies are snug. And snug pj's, while cute, make skinny kids look slightly ridiculous.

He was 5, and he's just gotten a big 20" mountain bike that I'd found at a yard sale (he's been riding a 2-wheeler since he was 4. I told you he was athletic.) Cute big sister is riding her bike up and down the street. Before I can stop him, he's donned his Power Rangers helmet and is flying like a bat out of hell out of the garage, down the driveway and into the street on his bike.

Going for broke, his skinned and bruised little baby legs peddle as fast as they can. He's a blur of lit-up rockets shooting through space, as he races to keep pace with the big sister. He's gaining on her...faster...faster.... Gotcha!

He slows his pace, straightens is back and...

Cue Barry White.

"Hey girrrl. You feeling goooood? Mmm. You like what you seeeeee? Yah babe. You know? Mmmm..." He looks over at her with this come-hither, "check me out babe" look on his face. She's 9! He's 5! And a half!

And he's wearing tight glow-in-the-dark rocket ship pajamas.

With a Power Rangers helmet.

That's making his 95th percentile pumpkin head look even larger on his skinny little cotton pj-clad bod.

Whether she picked up on the vibes he was throwing her way or not I will never know. My guess is, yes, she did. He wasn't very subtle. At the very least, she was amused. Maybe she was flattered. Who could deny that he was the total package?

For me, it was an unexpected and very overt gesture of adoration from a shy little guy who so vehemently is opposed to all girls.

Two years later, he's still got a crush. We've teased him a little, but he gets really upset, which is how I know I'm right about it. Even though he denies it, I watch him now when she's around, and he still shows off for her, but in a much more subtle way. With a hint of shy embarrassment. I know this because he always cuts a glance at me when she shows up to see if I'm watching.

I am. I always will. I'm his Mom. That's my job.

It's endearing. And wonderful. And heartbreaking.

I wonder if, one day, he'll remember his crush. I wonder if he'll still think, many years from now, about this little girl and the power she had over him. I hope he does, and that the pajama story will make him laugh. I hope it embarrasses him just a little, but not too much.

Mostly, I hope he finds someone who moves him to do the wonderful, painfully awkward things he did to impress a girl when he was 5.

And this time, I hope it works.

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