First in Flight


Boy pretending to fly

“Why are we stopping here?”

I look at my son in the rearview mirror.  Mint chocolate chip ice cream is tracking a path down his chin, subtracting a good four years from his age. 

“I need milk and creamer,” I sigh.  It is the end of one of those weekends. The kind that wears on you like a long-sleeved t-shirt on a suddenly, unseasonably warm spring day.  And the weight of activity and obligation has knocked me flat, bothered and exhausted. 

“I’ll be so glad when you’re 10,” I tell him, slipping the car into park under the awning in front of the grocery store.  An eyebrow shoots up over his sweating cone.

“Why?” he asks.

“Because,” I say, “then I’ll be able to dole out some cash and have you go get creamer and milk.  It’ll be fantastic.”

The car (for once) is blissfully silent except for the sound of the ‘Fearless’ Ms. Swift..Hey Stephen, I could give you fifty reasons…And I’m almost finished psyching myself up for the quick in-and-out for my must-have morning crutch, when I hear:

“I think I can do it.”

The solemnity with which this line is delivered almost makes me laugh out loud.  I look back at him with an amused smile.  “You think so, huh?”

“Yeah.  I do.  Seriously.  I know where the milk is,” he says.  “I have to get the organic kind — 1 percent.  And I have to check the expiration date for the farthest one out.  Dad told me.  And the creamer, it’s just right there next to the milk, right?”

“Well yeah,” I say.  All of a sudden I feel like I’ve walked slam into a MOMENT…like the ones that used to come in frequent and ferocious waves when the kids were babies.  When ‘firsts’ crashed on top of each other at such a pace that it was hard to keep the shutter snapping fast enough to capture them all.

“Are you sure?  I mean, do you really think you can do it?” 

“Yeah, Mom. I know I can.”  (I’m ‘Mom’ now.  Just in the last two weeks.  It’s a moniker that makes me feel like I should be trading Rainbows and tank tops for Keds and popped-collar polos.)

“Well, OK.  Here’s some money.  Go straight in, get the stuff and come right back out.  If you’re in there more than 10 minutes, I’m going to come looking for you.”

“Got it,” he says.

As I watch him jog off towards the doors of the grocery store, already working the casual swagger of a much older and cooler boy, I fight back small swells of irrational panic. I mentally take in the parking lot.  The people coming and going.  Cars, trucks and vans that could hold something or someone suspect.  Finally, after a thorough casing of the joint, I reach an uneasy peace.

The child is not entering an enemy POW camp rife with hostile, apron-donning terrorists, I think.  You have a clear view of both entrances.  If anyone tries to hustle, shuffle or outright drag that baby out the door, you can just run them over with the car.  No problem.  You’ve got this.

“I hope Griffin is OK,” says Addison from the perfect and precious safety of her booster seat.  Her voice startles the absolute crap out of me.  My oldest child has been gone for six minutes and in my pscyho-Mommy obssessing, I’ve somehow managed to forget that she is even there.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.  Not in my whole life.  An 8-year-old boy going into the store all by himself.”  She sounds both awed and only slightly unsure that my next move might be to send her around the corner to McDonald’s to pick me up a Big Mac.

“I suppose, if he doesn’t come out in like, 15 hours, we’ll just have to go in and get him,” she says.  And that finally cracks my shell of low-grade anxiety, making me laugh.

“Actually,” I say turning to look at her, “I think we’ll give him two more minutes and then go in and fish him out.”  She seems almost as relieved as I am at the prospect.  Finally, a plan that makes sense. 

It’s been 11 minutes.  I’m just about to park for real, when I see him.  Running through the sliding doors, bag in hand, face flushed, and looking like he just scaled the summit of Everest.  Victory.  Growth.  Creamer. 

I am proud and surprised and inexplicably sad. This moment is small, but oh-so-big in its bittersweetness. And as I pull away from the store, Addison softly twangs a little tune she belted out in white cap and gown at her preschool graduation only 48 hours earlier:

1, 2, 3…like a bird I sing.
You’ve given me,
the most beautiful set of  wings. 
I’m so glad you’re here today,
Cause tomorrow I might have to go and fly away.
Fly away…fly away…


18 Responses

  1. lol. Love this story.

  2. So many times I prayed someone would open a drive through convenience store near me. Until, I realized that I could send the 11-year-old in. Just a warning… don’t make the list any longer than 2 items and keep the complicated things like “gerbil food” off the list. 🙂 Oh – and I totally appreciate the “phsycho-mommy obsessing” – I used to stand at the door and watch as she got the mail from the top of the driveway. (Okay, I still do.)

    • Emily — There’s a little psycho mom in all of us, isn’t there? I think you’re absolutely right about the 2 items or less approach. Milk is one thing, the precise right brand of eggrolls and duck sauce are a different matter alltogether. Good advice 🙂

  3. I had a moment like that when I realized that I was going to need to stop drying off the little boy when he got out of the shower unless I planned to doom him to a life of therapy. I just loved the snuggling with him wrapped in a towel smelling like shampoo…

    I would appreciate it if life would send me a memo a day or two before these events happen. I do so much better when I have an opportunity to prepare…make a few notes…

    But I’m impressed that he came out with the right stuff. If only my teenagers were so reliable…

    • A memo would be ever-so-lovely. I’ve had the whole bath-time and towel drying issue. I tried to back off and let the little man start showering by himself, but he straight up told me he “wasn’t ready for that.” The whole exchange was so cute and so…well, Griffin…that I have relented for now. Even though his father keeps reminding him that I will unavailable for bath duty in the dorms.

      Incidentally, there’s not much that pisses an 8-year-old off more than questioning his manhood while simultaneously trying to take away his Mommy. Come to think of it, a lot of grown men have the very same problem…

  4. Have you every heard about free-range parenting? I think kids need a bit* more independence that many current societal norms dictate these days. (Just a bit, I’m not talking about neglect).

    I think this is beautiful and wonderfully written. I can’t imagine how I will feel when I get to this stage with my son (who hasn’t even exited the womb yet). But I think this is great. Your son is so cool, brave, helpful and mature. Good job Mom.

    • Sydney — I haven’t heard of “free-range” parenting. Does it have something to do with raising children in chicken coops? Or chickens in kid coops? I need to do a little research, because the premise is totally intriguing.

      Seriously, I agree with you about the need to provide kids with more outlets to exercise their independence and develop self-reliance. I’m going to be honest here though, and say that actually following through on that idea makes my heart pucker. Every baby you have will sneak right under your skin, but there really is something about little boys. Prepare your heart for ambush, girl. You’re going to spend the next 18-25 years trying to do the right thing while shouting, “Where are my defibrillation paddles?! Honey, did you move my paddles again?

      • Syd — More than 24 hours later I’m remembering that “free range” means NO COOPS. Dang…I hate it when I mess up the funny 🙂

  5. I have no doubt that I’m going to remember this story when Connor gets of age. You are a gifted writer and storyteller, Laura!

    • Kerry — Thank you for that lovely compliment. One of the most interesting — and by that I mean startling — apsects of parenting for me has been bearing witness to the little things that come after first steps, first smiles and first words. You spend so many years just managing basic care and feeding. Teaching people not to hit. To play nice. And share.

      On some level, I think it’s easy to feel like that’s going to go on forever. Then, boom — they do something so seemingly inconsequential as to be almost overlooked, and you realize, Oh my God. He isn’t a baby anymore. It’s fantastic and gratifying and just a little bit sniffle inducing. I am bracing for many more of these moments over the course of the coming decade.

      (P.S. Every so often I do sneak a peek at the pictures of your baby. That’s one handsome Carolina fan you’ve got there, woman.)

  6. Beautifullly written, but I’m having a hard time believing that Griffin is old enough to be running in to get you milk and creamer. How is that possible? And I’m having an even harder time knowing that C is turning 6 on Saturday, so he’s only 2 years away from running into the store for me! Scary, but also pretty cool once you get past the freaking out stage. Just think of all the times when you won’t have to run in and get something yourself now!

    • Julie — Thank you!! If you’d asked me four years ago — or even four weeks ago — if 8 would be the age that I’d let him go alone into a store, I would have thought you were smoking something. It still seems so young to me. But Griffin…good gosh….he’s always been 2 going on 6 or 8 going on 12, etc. Addison will likely need to wait until double digits to be trusted with such an assignment.

      I can’t believe your little man is going to be 6! That’s mindboggling. But that’s parenting, right? The days are long and the years are short…

  7. I mowed the lawn for the first time when I was about your son’s age – no more yard work for you!

    I’m a big believer in the free-range deal too, but at the moment I can’t let my 12 week old cry for more than a minute without running to see what’s the matter, so good luck to me on that one.

    This is a great blog – excellent humorous writing and it gives me lots to look forward to. Thanks for writing.

  8. Sorry, that last comment was from me, not Chris – I still had her login cookie from posting on her blog.

  9. Brian,

    I still have not done my research on ‘free range’ parenting but I can’t possibly believe it would apply to 12-week-olds. That just wouldn’t be right. Your daddy instincts seem to be firmly rooted in exactly the right place, if you don’t mind me saying. Thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂

  10. That is such a great post! I have an eight year old boy and I can totally relate to every emotion. LOVE IT!

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