He swivels around on his stool, finds my eyes, smiles, and gives me a thumbs up.
This is becoming our ritual when my son is a little detached from me and experiencing something on his own. This particular night that new experience was a cooking class for kids. He was busy sitting at a stainless steel table with three adorable little girls. They corroborated together to stir chocolate chip cookie dough, roll up chicken crescent rolls, and make bananas blue. Very cute. I sat in the lobby at a safe distance but with an excellent view. My seat prevented me from doing anything for him or from even giving him instructions. I watched with glee as he answered questions and interacted with his fellow chefs.
My Warrick is four. He is taking cooking classes, swim lessons, and participating in library activities. I am not needed for these experiences other than a ride there and a thumbs up. Something is changing or has changed this summer, guys. We have reached the age of burgeoning competence or confidence or social independence or whatever you want to call it. This new stage is not reflective of separation as much as it is of his becoming his own little self. My oldest boy has been in some sort of childcare since he was six months, so being away from me is not new. We have been going to parks and libraries and sports games since he was little bitty, so seeing and doing things aren’t new either.
But what is new is that now, I am not holding him or even his hand. I am not even hovering around a slide or gently instructing him to be kind and keep his hands to himself as he plays with other kids. These lessons and experiences happen apart from me. I am on the sideline, cheering him on, supplying the thumbs up when needed.
Just this morning the sideline was a plastic lounge chair beside the pool. I watched his swim lessons in awe, amazed at the little guy. Now, I know swim lessons aren’t novel or rare by any means, but when it’s your first kid asserting himself and learning how to control his little body, it’s kind of amazing. I am so proud of him when he recites back the pool rules or puts his head under and then comes up for air. After swimming the length of the pool (with some assistance, mind you), he smiles and gives me a thumbs up. It just gets me, y’all.
The thing with the thumbs up is that it used to be strictly a sign from me to acknowledge I saw him perform or create. He is constantly asking me to watch him do something amazing or cool or awesome. I respond with praise and a thumbs up. I am comfortable supplying this role as Mama, the supporter and encourager. My thumbs ups for him are signals of approval, but he has now turned it around on me! When he gives me the sign, he is signaling to me that he is good, he is happy, he is handling it. He is already showing me that I don’t have to worry. He is concerned about me and wants me to show that I know that he knows that he’s okay. This role flips my approval signal into an “I’m good, Mom” signal. My imagination quantum leaps. I envision him getting up from a football or soccer tackle and giving me the thumbs up. I see him leaving for a high school dance and giving me the thumbs up. I imagine him on his graduation day shooting me a thumbs up when he gets his diploma. For me, this summer is the beginning of all that. He’s growing up.
With this new independence comes some challenges for me as well as victories. I am learning to step away. I can still supply plenty of instruction, but now it’s on our own time in preparation for public events. I am also observing the manners we’ve been trying to teach him actually manifest with strangers and teachers. That’s pretty cool. My favorite victory, though, is watching him develop and display his unique intelligence and personality that I know and love. And to that, I give a big thumbs up.