One of my proudest days this summer was when I walked in on Max explaining to his friend the leveraged buyout business model and that it was inherently “selfish and mean”. Ok…Ok…He has had some exposure to my politics over his tender 6 years-he didn’t just pick it up from the air on his own. But despite his tendency to agree with me much of the time, he is wrestling to come up with his own opinions and that makes me equally proud. One day when he came into work with me he remarked as he was stuffing envelopes…”Mom…If we won the lottery we’d be rich and then John McCain would give us tax breaks and then it wouldn’t be so bad that he is the loophole king.” It took awhile for me to explain that I don’t mind paying taxes because I believe that we all need to chip in to take care of one another and our community and that if I was rich I especially wouldn’t mind because we are a “sharing family” and that even if I did win the lottery I would still be routing for Obama. Max said he would need to think about it. He was for Obama but it might all change if he won the lottery and wanted tax loopholes. That’s OK.
On that same day, Max announced that he had discovered Steve Earle and that Copperhead Road was now his favorite album–well maybe it was tied with Billy Bragg/Wilco’s Mermaid Ave Volume 1. Oh my sweet boy. He’s political AND he has good taste in music. I am raising him right. I pat myself on my back as though his brain and his taste in music somehow have something to do with me.
Last night he had his 4 best buddies sleepover to celebrate his birthday. I am still reeling from the fact that next week he will be seven years old. Its one of those odd milestones–not well rounded like 5 or 10 (or 40) but for some reason it feels more poignant. Six feels young and sweet and still close to babyhood. Seven feels so grown up. So much has changed in this last year–His face is no longer round and soft. He is lanky and sometimes I see glimmers of the young man he is growing into in his eyes. Seven somehow reminds me that he won’t be my baby forever–that he is becoming his own person.
Truth is he has always been his own person. When he was born, he would scream if swaddled, despite what the baby books said about how it would comfort him. When he was two he declared himself a vegetarian, because he thought it was mean to eat animals. His life was forever changed by Bruce the Shark in Nemo. “Fish are friends…not food” he would repeat over and over again “…and so are chickens and cows Mommy…” While we have agreed to disagree on the food thing he still occasionally raises his eyebrows when I am cooking up bacon and eggs or grilling chicken. One day he even said “I can’t believe you mom…how can a mom who is so kind be so cruel….” How indeed.
Yes, its been one big illusion that he is MY baby. But its been an illusion I have enjoyed hanging onto. Still there are moments when it all fades and I realize that the beauty of who he is becoming, of who he is RIGHT NOW and that in many ways it has nothing to do with me and I am beginning to think that this fact is more lovely.
Max is here on his own journey and for some reason I have something to teach him that will help him along the way and that is why he came through me. But he is not mine. He will leave sooner than I can even imagine it and our relationship will shift and change a thousand times between now and then. This morning as I watch he and his friends bounce around to the Clash and Steve Earle, as I shake my head at the fact that Max doesn’t want these delicious blueberries in his pancakes, this poem runs through my head over and over…
Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but are not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet