This morning I was sitting on the couch and my oldest son came in and sat at the other end of the couch and announced, "Mom... I think I am finally mature enough to ask Sally Smith to be my girlfriend."
Various responses went through my head at lightning speed some of which were an adamant "hell no you're not!", a sarcastic "really? didn't you just turn eight?", and a panicked and jaded "don't do it, son, she'll just break your heart!"
But instead I tried to play it cool and offered a non-committal, "Hmm. Really?"
"Yes," he said confidently. "I'm going to do it in a note."
He went off to get some paper and a pen. I sat there with my cell phone in my hand trying to remember why I had my cell phone in my hand and noting to myself that this was probably a really awesome milestone and possibly a great mother-son bonding moment that I just let slip past because of my parental ineptitude.
I wandered off to take a shower and when I came back he was sitting at the desk staring into space. When he saw me he crumpled the paper up and said, "Aw, I just can't do it."
I smiled. "It takes some nerves of steel sometimes, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," he said sheepishly.
"It's okay, though. I was thinking about what you said. You know you could just try being her good friend to start with and then it will be a real piece of cake if you still want to ask her to be your girlfriend later. Maybe it won't seem so risky."
He thought about it and bent down to tie his shoes. He has been a velcro kid his whole life and still isn't smooth with the laces. How can he be already interested in having a girlfriend when he still gets upset because he can't tie his shoes well? The natural order of life doesn't fit in with the desire my brain has for logic and common sense.
I added, "What about getting her a small gift or something?"
He grunted in a small panic that accompanied the contemplation of that scenario so I said, "I mean, it doesn't have to be a big deal. Take her some bubble gum or something. I don't know."
He laughed. I think it was part embarrassment and part ridicule -- mocking me to cover how he was feeling. I searched for a graceful way to stop the conversation.
"Well, you'll figure it out. Just wait til you're 30 or something. That should be enough time."
Tristan was in the hallway putting on his (velcro) shoes. "Why does anyone even care about it?"
"Care about what?" I didn't even know he was listening.
"Having a girlfriend. Why does anyone even want to care about it?"
I asked him if he wanted a girlfriend and he said no. I said some people when they get older they want a girlfriend and then I reminded him that he also didn't really need to worry about it until he was 30.
"But I want to care about it." As usual he is a bundle of contradictory statements.
"Well, then you can care about it. That's fine."
"Yes, I do want to care about it."
I sat for a while and listened to Julius explain to him how he was too young to have a girlfriend anyway. Sounded familiar.
I don't remember thinking about boys when I was eight. I don't think I cared much about boys until I crept up to my teenage years. There was too much adventuring to be had where I lived -- too many trees and cliffs to climb, too many creeks to swim in and silly games to play with my girlfriends, miles to ride on my bike, too many books to read and my own stories to make up.
The world moves so fast and furious and when I look at Julius sometimes it seems like I'm gazing across a chasm at him. Or as if we are both on moving sidewalks at an airport, only his sidewalk is beginning to move increasingly faster compared to the one I'm on. I see myself casting a hand forward to reach out to him and he smiles and waves as he moves into the distance.
It seems sad at times, but delightful at other times. His maturity is amusing and precocious and I'm so proud of him many reasons.
Still, I do find myself wishing some days that he was a really nerdy kid who had no friends and who just wanted to stay home and read books and play video games and would live in my basement forever. Except I don't even have a basement.
Maybe I could dig one.