I decided to mow the grass yesterday. Usually Jon takes care of the grass mowing, but I thought I would surprise him this time. Little did I know I was the one in for a surprise.
The kids had just finished their after school snack when I announced that I would be out front mowing. Will’s eyes lit up, and he asked if he could help. He is nine, and has helped mow the lawn only a few times. I hesitated, partly surprised by his enthusiasm and partly wary of his inexperience. But he had already finished his homework while waiting for me to pick him up at school, so I said yes, and we headed out through the garage.
I almost never mow the grass, but Will and I managed to get the mower started (he helpfully pointed out the little red button on the side that must be pushed before the mower will start). I showed my son where to begin, and off he went, happy as can be, with a look of determination.
It was one of those times when you can practically see your child growing up before you. Sometimes they grow subtly, almost sneakily, so that you barely notice until all of a sudden they are three inches taller. But this time I could see it there before me, the stretching, the reaching, the straining. Like my boy was willing himself to grow into bigger shoes, to be like his dad. As he leaned in to push the mower over the stubborn ground, he was leaning in to growing up.
And he wanted it. He wanted to be bigger, to do more, to be more. I could see it… in his face and in the way he didn’t want to let his sister have a turn. (Who knew mowing could be such an envious task?) But he let her have a turn anyway, content to stand beside me and watch her in a knowing, supervisory way.
Will started calling us Dad and Mom recently instead of Daddy and Mommy. Just out of the blue he changed our names. Anna, who is older, thinks it sounds strange. I think he is putting us on notice that he is no longer little, and he has plans to grow up. This child, the one who so often would wriggle away when I tried to snuggle him even as a baby… he is set on going.
When Anna had enough of her turn mowing, Will happily jumped back in the game. I watched him maneuver the lawnmower around the yard in a rather random path. He was full of determination and pride, though a bit lacking in skill. I tried not to point out every patch of lucky grass he missed, saving my comments for only the most obvious areas, and deciding to make up some of the difference with the hand clippers later.
Before long, both the front and back yards were mown, and they looked pretty good. My boy was sweaty and satisfied with himself as he went into the house.
I stood outside a little longer, taking in this accomplishment. And I was proud in a bittersweet way, pretty sure he was taller now.