From a very young age Michael has enjoyed his morning drive with his mom.
Lately it was getting extremely awkward, as Michael has been getting bigger and bigger and less able to sit with any level of comfort on his mom’s lap as they pulled out of the garage (again… not “driving”, just a ride to the end of the driveway).
But he was insistent. He absolutely HAD to ride with her or the morning was not right. And if the morning started out wrong, the whole day would go downhill from there.
I’m not sure exactly what was different about the fateful day he opted to not go.
It was the typical morning: mommy had just put on her shoes and was gathering her things, Michael was occupied with his DS or something on television, and his mom called out to him: “Okay, Michael! I’m going off to work now! Do you want to ride?”
Ordinarily, he would instantly drop what he was doing and run to get his shoes on so he could go with her.
But one day not too long ago, in response to her call he gave her a goodbye kiss and said “No thanks.”
Actually, I don’t recall what was said, if anything.
He knew she was going. He knew what it meant. He knew that he’d be missing his morning ride.
And he chose not to go with her.
His mom was stricken. I did my best to provide comforting words: “It was bound to happen some day,” I said. “He still loves you, I think he’s starting to see he’s just too big for the ride,” I said. “At least he still kisses you goodbye!”
Small comfort. Hollow words. I don’t think anything could possibly fill the void his mom was feeling. Her little man was growing up. Just this little bit, just this tiny increment. But as small as it was, it was huge.
His mom got in her car, placed her coffee and lunch box in their places, and pressed the button on the garage door opener. She stared straight ahead.
“I love you,” I said, while hunching within the driver’s side window frame.
She just turned to look at me with pleading eyes, as if to say “Can’t he be little for just a little longer?”
As his dad, my hope is for him to grow up quickly and leave behind the childish things. My goal is to see him learn how to be self-sufficient, how to solve his own problems and handle his own stresses. In my mind, his decision to not ride with his mom is a sign that he is on the right path, by willingly setting aside one more aspect of small child hood.
But as a husband, I grieve with my wife for what she loses in the process: a tangible connection with that little baby she had. That little baby that now smiles only in photographs, that now giggles and crawls only on the video screen.
It’s good and bad, happy and sad. Life rolls on inexorably.
And one day (hopefully not in this decade) there will be grandchildren. Maybe one of them will want to ride in the car on her lap.