Saturday, March 5, 2011

Manchildren Like These

Most of my friends have smaller kids closer to the age of my younger ones. I am in a weird place in my grown-up life. Not quite middle-aged, not young-n-dumb, just...thirtysomething.  But Jeff and I have already raised and released two kidlings from our nest with three to go, ages 14, 9 and 6.  My friends still have yet to discover what their relationships will look like with their soon-to-be adult children. It's hard for them to imagine, but what they can count on is this: The way their kids are as babies is the way they will be as grown-ups, just more refined. I am fortunate to share a glimpse here of what inevitably awaits least, I hope it will be as glorious.

I was young-n-dumb once, that's how I ended up having a baby at the tender age of 12. OK...that's just what I tell people, though I was barely of legal age when I gave birth to my first child. Because my boyfriend and I were 18 and in careless, ignorant lust, we created a beautiful little son.  It was a hard path I chose and if I had to do over I'd probably do things differently.  But thank God He knew my future and the plans He had for that sweet baby.  Precious little Elih turned out to be my most favorite mistake. 

Elih is all grown up now.  My job raising him is done, he's accountable for his own mistakes and something magical has happened.  We have become friends! Don't misunderstand, I still get to be his mom, boss him around and guilt him into obedience but, he likes me now.  And when we walk hand in hand, people think I'm robbing the cradle, teehee.

He makes me laugh, he's goofy and silly and I'm convinced he will always be a boy at heart.  He's generous and unpretentious, the homeless love him.  His heart barely fits inside his 6'1" frame that suffocates me when we cuddle now.

Sometimes he's too sarcastic and gets misunderstood but he's pretty witty and talks himself out of a lot of trouble..what is it, like 9 traffic tickets now, Elih?!  He's always been a charmer.  He was terrible in school but somehow managed to trick his teachers into taking pity on his adorable brown puppy eyes.  Conferences usually went the way of  "Elih doesn't do his homework and really needs to apply himself, oh, but I just looove Elih, he is such a sweet boy, such a joy..."

Growing up, Elih was also the family guardian, the first on the scene of a scraped knee or bruised elbow.  He would console his younger siblings for their booboo's and confront their bullies. He was just an all around good kid. The only time I was called by the police to come pick him up was when he jumped in between two strangers engaged in a fist fight at the skate park. "your son isn't in trouble ma'am, but you may want to remind him that kind of behavior might get him killed one day."

Elih was always strong willed and determined to win. If he didn't think he could ace something he wouldn't attempt it. He loved free raffles when he was little but he'd cry bitter tears if he didn't get the prize. He was definitely a child persuaded by positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, he was my Guinea pig 1st born and got the tar beat out of him until he was 10yo before I realized money and bribes worked better.

He was always a bit of an independent and a self teacher, too.  He knew how to rationalize pain and make the best of his situation so authority (and punishment) didn't really intimidate him, neither did high cliffs or deep water.  He was smart and his inflated self esteem fed into his assumption that he should already know how to do stuff without reading the instructions.  I'm sure that's why he loved Lego's.  That kid could just look at the box from the age of 5 and put a set together perfectly.  As he grew up that self determination, coupled with a progressing adrenaline addiction, he excelled at video games, skate/snow/wake boarding and driving a stick shift.  Elih spent his senior year in HS switching out the motor of his Honda civic with the help of a couple friends.  It didn't surprise me he taught himself to do it all.

So I wasn't shocked when the day came he told me he wanted to join the United States Marine Corps.  Something inside me knew all along he'd choose the military as a's why I threw away every mailer the USMC and ARMY sent him through high school.  This time my threats and pleads made no dent in his decision.  Elih always had a pension to be the best, a hero-mentality about him.  I'm convinced a traumatic event he witnessed as a toddler jaded him from wanting to be a police officer and he's never been able to stomach blood or gore so being a paramedic was not an option for him either.  Becoming a mechanic or something in the field of putting things together was more his forte but that wouldn't satisfy his innate need to save the world.  However, the Marine Corps embodied all that Elih found appealing, the few the proud, the brave...and free college!

He just graduated USMC boot camp and is finishing up his MOS training.  In a few weeks he will be stationed somewhere on the globe, far away from family but his heart will always be at home, with me.  He still asks his ol' mom for advice and he cares what I think. He still calls me 'mommy' and saves those big alligator tears for me to wipe away. I still lecture him and he still doesn't tell me everything so he can 'protect' me. And now that he's Mr. Moneybags, he likes to treat me to lunch, buy me candy bars and expensive Christmas gifts--that he feels he must constantly remind me of.

He recently forbade me to get a nose ring or tattoo and insists I'm going through a mid life crisis because I got my eyebrows done and started wearing bikinis, I worry him. Ha! I think what he actually sees is his mom as a real-life person and it weirds him out. He'll get used to it and one day we will share a real drink together. Baby steps. For now I am happy to let him buy me a latte while he slurps on his mocha java freezie with extra choco-locolate to drown out that yucky coffee taste.

The military has been good for my manchild. I'm having doubts whether they will ever be able to cut the umbilical cord between us but I am so, so proud of my son and the man he is becoming.

I have plenty more tales to tell about my grown daughter from another mother in a future post. Just never doubt the 6th sense God placed inside you to raise your children up in the way they should go. The rewards are bountiful and I am so excited to see how my other ones turn out.

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