“Hey, baby.” I say to my eleven year-old. It’s what I call my boys, except my middle son, who at four would already reprimand me for calling him baby. “I’m not a baby.” He’d growl, to which I’d reply, “You’re my baby.” He never accepted my answer and would yell at me whenever I slipped.
Not so with my oldest. He’s always embraced both being a baby and being my baby.
I can’t say I don’t love it, but at times I worry if I’ve made his comfort zone too comfortable; if I’ve babied my baby too much.
“You want to call a friend to come over?” I ask.
He’s curled up in his favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket for comfort not warmth, a bowl of popcorn at his feet watching Austin and Ally on television. He barely turns his head toward me when he answers, “Nah. I’m good.”
“Are you sure?” I ask, walking to the chair and squatting down next to him.
At my closeness, he immediately leans over and nuzzles his head against my body. I give him a squeeze and kiss his head. Ah. My baby.
“I’m good.” He says again, opening his arms for a hug, which I happily embrace.
It’s his downtime. He works hard at school, homework and sports, so I don’t mind him relaxing if that’s what makes him happy.
He craves home, while my middle son craves independence. At eight, he’s already a social animal, and has secured a friend to come over. After his play date, it is not unusual for him to ask for another.
Sometimes, I worry a bit that my oldest is too happy nestled in his chair while his more socially developed friends spend more time bonding and making connections. I worry about him being left behind. Even, shallowly, about not being cool. I want, what I think, most parents want, for him to have an easy run through middle and high school. To fit in. To be well-liked.
“Mommy?” He asks, as I give his head one last tousle and rise to leave him. “Can you bring me water?”
I struggle with wanting to push him out there and pull him back in. I struggle with wanting to do things for him and for him to do them himself. Push. Pull.
He’s eleven. Maybe that’s the age where they need to mature. Almost all of his friends are texting and addicted to Instagram. Quite a few are already into girls. At the moment, my beautiful, sweet son remains blissfully unaware of the social tornado going on all around him.
“Okay, baby.” I say.