A piece of my heart beats outside my body. He wears size 5 youth shoes, a medium shirt, and size 8 pants. He loves Pokémon and Captain Underpants. He’s obsessed with Legos and Star Wars and Marvel movies. He has a quick grin, a smart mouth, and hair that would give a chia pet a run in the craziest hair ever contest. He has blue eyes and brown hair. He’s eight, almost nine, years old. He’s sweet and frustrating and funny and smart. He’s shy and brave. He’s quirky, a little nerdy, and so full of life. He loves running, swimming, playing outside, and acting silly.
It’s been a rough year for AJ, this year of 2nd grade. He’s learned some hard lessons this year about friendship, making good choices, and responsibility. I’ve watched him, this piece of my heart, be bruised as he learns life lessons. It’s taken all of my wherewithal to let him learn these lessons, not to be the helicopter parent, not to be the parent who fixes it instead of letting him learn, not to save him failure.
His 9th birthday looms, and he decided he wants to have a party where he invites his classmates. With it being a summer birthday, I know few are likely to come. And, I’ve done my all to prepare him for the fact that no one, or very few, may show up, and I’ve watched my precious boy gather his determination and find his bravery to go to school, to pass out those invitations, and to wait, to see if anyone texts or emails me that they will come. It’s agony for me. I want nothing more than for everyone to see AJ the way I see him -smart, funny, silly, and kind.
He is impatient, he doesn’t always follow the rules at school, and my fear, even though his teachers assure me it isn’t true, is that he is “that” kid -the kid no one wants to be friends with because he’s different, my super smart son. He goes to an academy for kids who are academically gifted, which AJ is. To me, AJ is the stereotypical gifted kid. He’s afraid of failure, a perfectionist, who is easily frustrated. He almost never gets angry, but he’s quick to impatience and prone to believe the worst in himself.
God help me, he’s me.
His sister makes friends easily, knows how to navigate the social landscape. She’s gregarious and outgoing. She’s sure of herself. She’s had almost three more years in this life to learn the lessons AJ is learning. I remember going through something similar with her when she was in 3rd grade. I know AJ will learn, and I hope he will become as gregarious and outgoing as his sister, but right now, he’s unsure. He tells me he’s not brave enough, but to me, he’s more than enough, and I want, so much, for others to see it too.
Parenting, allowing pieces of your heart, to walk outside your body, knowing you cannot hide them behind bone and muscle, veins and tendons, is agony and joy, heartbreak and elation.
Yesterday, after school, AJ ran to me, gave me a huge hug, buried his face in my neck, and pulled away long enough to say, “I passed the invitations out Momma. Thank you for letting me.” I kissed his forehead and gathered him tightly in my arms, savoring, knowing moments like these are fleeting, cancer or not. He’s eight, almost nine. He won’t be able to sit in my lap, bury his face in my neck, and be held tightly much longer. He won’t want to sit in my lap, bury his face in my beck, and he held tightly much longer. These moments are precious. He is precious.
I have a son. A smart, silly, kind, smart little boy. Brave yet uncertain, learning lessons I wish were easier to learn, yet knowing these lessons have to be learned. I have a son. I love him with ferocity and wish I could protect him from everything, yet I know I can’t. I have a son. No matter what happens to me, this piece of my heart makes our lives better, richer. I have a son, a piece of my heart living outside my body, walking this Earth.
He and his sister, they are the best parts of me.