My 10-year-old son faces a tragic boyhood interruption. Affection for the opposite sex has stopped him short in the innocence of youth. Suddenly, he bathes daily, without me nagging. He wears underwear. He brushes his hair.
While his younger brother shoots flies off poop with a BB gun in the backyard, my 10-year-old stands next to the phone, breathing deeply to calm the gerbils anxiously running in his chest, his hand poised over the receiver. He tries to collect the courage to dial the number and ask a young lady's parents if he may please speak with their precious onliest-only.
Holding up my index finger and thumb, I frame his body between them and pinch to squish him. Stay small, I whisper. Don't rush through this, I quietly advise.
It's futile. Girls are stealing his simplistic focus on snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, ferreting it away with their coy smiles and batting eyelashes. Even worse, he fumbles to help them with their blatant thievery.
He asks me, "When did you get your first boyfriend?"
"In fifth grade," I answer. "Chuck. He had blond hair."
"Did you talk to him?" my child inquires. "Or were you too nervous?"
"He asked me to be his girlfriend in a note," I explain. "I answered, 'Yes,' in a note. Coming off the playground from break everyday, I passed his classroom. We looked at each other."
"Did he call you on the phone?"
"Why didn't you marry him?"
"I broke up with him in a note. He asked, 'Why?' in a note. I wrote, 'You know why,' in another note. He didn't know why, of course. Right then, on that day, I introduced him to the confusing, alien mind of girls."
"Well, why did you break up with him?" my son wants to know, edging for insight into women.
"You know why," I smile slyly. His eyes narrow. I confess, "I don't know. I guess I wanted to get that experience out of the way. It was a mean thing I did, wasn't it?"
"It's a good thing you did," he consoles me, "or you would have married him and not Daddy."
In a naïve and fragile state, he's just discovering the feminine mystique. "Oh, I had lots of boyfriends between Chuck and your daddy. You'll have lots of girlfriends, too, before you meet your true love, the girl who makes your heart thump so loudly in your ears you feel like the whole world can hear it. Along the way you'll break some hearts and you'll get yours broken."
"I'll never have as many girlfriends as daddy," he says.
I pretend those second-rate girls never existed. And I prefer that my 10-year-old not speak as if my beloved has a current harem. "Your father doesn't have any girlfriends but me," I correct. "He may have had some in the past, but he doesn't have them anymore. He won't get another, either. I'm it, the last of the Mohicans, the grand finale."
"The grand fi-mama," he happily agrees.
I worry about my son. I worry that he'll soon forget the pleasure of wrestling in the mud, disregard the gratifying challenge of smushing invincible ants with a basketball in the driveway, and forego the thrill of distance spitting. I fear his childhood will pass him by while he stands next to the phone with his hand suspended over the receiver, trying to gather the guts to make the call.
From a distance, I capture him briefly between my thumb and index finger and pinch. Safe journey, I wish him.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Contact Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site, www.ifmama.com. Her book is available at The McDuffie Mirror.)