Photo by: Darren Lebeuf of Housestories Canada
Our first baby.
There was no Lego for him to swallow in the house yet; no tiny toys for him to accidentally ‘find’ and put into his mouth. The privilege of every first born I suppose. I would sit next to him on our ‘OK to spit up on this’ protective blanket that was on the corner of our living room rug. It was the pre-crawling sitting era of babyhood. The era where your baby stayed where you set him down.
Every morning I would cozy up next to him and enthusiastically pull out each and every toy from our black wicker box with the patterned linen cloth insert. You know, that box I bought to decoratively store the toys, completely ignorant of my inevitable future… the future of toys that would and could never be ‘simply contained by a single box.’
“Look at this one!” I would exclaim with surprise and wonder as though I had never seen it before in my life. And as expected, he would reach out and grab that toy, shake it, eat it, and then toss it. And every single day, when the toys were done the books would come out, and we’d inevitably say “Good night” to the moon multiple times.
That was how we played together for so many months on repeat, what felt like a million times over. Eat, play, sleep; I was fully immersed in the cyclical routine of the new mama.
Over the past 8 years though, those blocks and rattles and simplistic books have evolved in a remarkable way.
Simple playful games of “I’m going to let you win at this round of tag and let you think that you won on your own” have morphed into, “I’m desperately trying to run, but my 35 year old self can’t run fast enough anymore to catch this kid who has the feet of a gazelle.”
Rolling the ball back and forth has become full blown soccer, football, and frisbee.
Repeatedly race the car down the ramp and cheer, has grown into board games like Risk, Battleship, and Settlers of Catan Jr.
With each and every new level of play he surpasses, I can see him inching his way towards adulthood.
Over the years we’ve built multiple Lego sets together. In the beginning he’d get easily frustrated with the difficulty of it all, and we’d pour over the instruction booklet side-by side and shoulder to shoulder. One year though, he didn’t need me anymore. His assembling skills and speed far surpassed that of his mom’s. Suddenly he was building Star Wars speeders and ATST’s in record time.
Then came the Amazon delivery boxes filled with the carefully researched and meticulously chosen Nerf guns. Blue and orange bullets created magnificent trails around my entire house. The guns littered my kitchen counters beside the cereal containers, and I felt like my voice was only used to remind them to, “Please tell me if you shoot one down the garburator!”
I’ve grown used to the sound of whistling darts flying by my head while I’m mixing up pancake batter. The shrieks of terror from little brothers who accidentally step into the line of fire, and the sheer cries of glee over shooting suction darts at our floor to ceiling apartment windows and getting them to stick exactly where desired.
It’s a big change from that first little box of toys. My son has undergone a huge change too, but I know my little baby boy is still inside. I still catch him sometimes sleeping with his arms above his head. That was exactly how he slept that first night we came home from the hospital, and many more nights following.
I still find that little boy in some of his laughs and facial expressions; the videos of his toddler years confirm it.
And his big brown eyes haven’t changed one bit. He’s still my boy with the curly brown hair and the long lanky limbs. The boy that still flings his arms around my neck to give me a hug, even though I often have to ask for it these days. The boy that is so strong and tall that I can barely lift him anymore. The boy that can almost successfully give his mom a piggyback ride. Almost.
We’re now at the halfway point to his 18th birthday and I know we still have so much left to play and learn together. Soon it will be skiing races and mountainside hikes. It’ll be dune buggies and go-karts. It’ll be driving real cars on real roads, instead of just pretending. It’ll all keep changing, because it’s supposed to. That’s what happens in this business of growing and raising kids to become adults.
But it’ll always still be us.
The games and the play will keep on evolving, but somehow we’ll also remain who we’ve always been. Just a boy and his mama, playing side by side and occasionally still, shoulder to shoulder.