Monday, June 8, 2015

Boy-Man and the Pink-Handled Pliers

My son shed a layer of his boyhood today.
This morning I woke him, as I always do, kissing his forehead and asking him to join the family for prayers. He had whimpered during breakfast over something inconsequential, as children do. And I waved my little boy off to his last day of fourth grade, having made sure his snack was in his bag, as mothers of children do.
Home for lunch, he ate like a ravenous animal, as he’s done for years and I thought little of it. Boys will be boys. Until they become men.
I worked all afternoon, joyous that summer vacation is fast-approaching, day-dreaming of the moment I could pass my wee-cavemen over to eager grandparents and finally exhale. Drink an undisturbed cup of coffee and read a few chapters of a book that is taking months to finish. Space out. Paint. Have a phone conversation without yelling across the room and covering the mouthpiece between, “Uh-huh. Oh? Cool! So, what are your plans now?”

His little sister ran up and scrunched her face to mine sometime between dinner and bedtime.
“Don’t tell her!” my son was right on her heels. He turned and marched out of the room, trusting his sibling to keep the secret.
She spilled, all in one breath, “Max has a crush on So-and-So*!”
I kept my cool. His dad had “the sex talk” with him months earlier and his reaction was perfect: absolute disgust. He had no interest in girls and was often frustrated when people told him things like, “You should be nice to girls.” Because men and women are equal – why would I treat them differently from boys?!
A maybe-crush on a girl he soon wouldn’t see for three months was okay. I could handle that.
Zora ran off, giggling and came right back moments later, practically hyperventilating.
“Max!” she inhaled deep, anxiety building. “Max’s finger!” her eyes searched mine. “Mom! The staple!”
My boy-man walked in behind her and showed me his pincushion thumb, more confusion on his face than anything. He and I were both more worried about Zora. Until I saw what she had seen.
“I love my brother! I love my brother!” she chanted, a kind of prayer asking that he survive the ordeal, as I inspected his thumb. The staple had gone all the way through and stopped just beneath his fingernail. I could see the end of the staple under his nail while the rest of it jutted out of his now-ruined thumbprint. No blood. I can handle blood, but this was altogether different. Eerie. A perfect puncture wound sent my head spinning to all the scenes I’ve ever witnessed, glorified by Hollywood. You don’t pull out the penetrating object, right? Or do you? What if it breaks off in his thumb? Is there even a clinic open at this hour should I totally screw this up? Why is he SO calm?!
He couldn’t pull it out. He asked for tweezers, then pliers. My man-boy asked for pliers to treat his wound. I obediently grabbed my pink-handled pliers, told him I couldn’t watch and left the room. His own mother left the room. To go freak out with his sister.
I studied his face as he shared the story afterward with his father, proud. He wasn’t a giddy, emotional roller-coaster of a child. He was calm, collected—recounting a story that involved an overly-distraught mother and a hysterical sister. Then he coolly went to do a thing only mature people do without someone else asking them to--brush his teeth.

*Well, well, well, my gossip-loving reader. Here you are. While my daughter only told me--this is true--I told the whole world (all seven of you) on a public blog. I figured the least I could do was not include the crush’s name.