Grow Up, Too Fast And Too Slow
A week at my parent’s house. We played. We fought. We learned.
My only child, I don’t get a chance to redo, but maybe I can take some cues from my mom and dad.
They remember good-old-days when elders were respected and children obeyed the first time they were told.
Details of their childhood may be a bit hazy after more than a half-century, but I take their point.
Grow up and saw
My parent’s property is quite lovely, but there is a lot of elevation they must traverse to care for it. Their joints are creaky and recovering from surgery. I told Yuri, we must help them so they don’t get more broken.
Comfortable on a couch with his feet up and a half drunk smoothie from his grandmother or “Grams” as he calls her.
Why would he leave behind the luxury of being a baby to embrace responsibility?
My mother just retired from decades of working with children his age. On top of raising two boys and a girl of her own, she’s grinded to max level corralling thousands of school-age beasts.
Steel in her voice, Grams calls him out.
You’re almost nine, Yuri. GROW UP!
He cried as he worked. His tears dried, and he kept working. A little man, he filled wheelbarrows with decomposed granite and took pride in the ache and sweat of the day.
Cutting down a tree with grandpa took less convincing. Once Yuri saw the old fashioned saw with teeth like a crocodile, he was ready to tear through some pulp.
Now they have wood ready to heat their home and trails looping around their nature-preservation hill.
Perfect paths for puppies, the elderly, and a boy with too much energy.
But wait, don’t grow up too fast
The most dangerous thing he did on this trip wasn’t zip-lining from nearly a hundred feet up.
Things went bad soon after Yuri started an alliance. People joined, I presume adult men. They harassed him. Used explicit language he didn’t understand and mocked him in private convos within the game.
Half an hour was all it took.
I scrolled through the messages and talked him through what happened, that he’d been taken advantage of because he was young. He was embarrassed and as addicting as the game was, he wanted it gone.
It was a wake up for me. I favor a balance of sheltering and developing maturity, but it’s tough to say “grow up” to a boy’s use of the Internet.
Now, he wants to play Roblox
It’s a very popular sandbox game he swears all his friends already have. On the surface, it seems tailored well for children his age, but I’m more cautious after the experience with that Sparta game on my phone.
A quick search and another dad has a sad story to tell.
It’s not so simple as filling a wheelbarrow or cutting down a tree. I can’t protect him forever, but there’s too much to see.
He’s reading my fiction
I at least have a fan of one.
My wife interrupts him. A mother’s instincts worried about his eyes. I cringe, wanting nothing to disrupt his consumption of a four year toil, my novel, Ranger of Path.
I write this as he reads that. My eyes flicker over, and my teeth bite lips and tongue.
How far has he gotten? Does he understand?
He’s pressing down, highlighting a word for definition, and then moves on.
My wife asks about shoes for him. I answer and smile as my son doesn’t look up.
He is immersed in my story. A mini-me, but it is an adult story. Deeper down will be some moments too dark and explicit. At this moment, he rubs his ear and sets it down.
First chapter done, and I ask him what he thinks so far.
“It’s great, but there are some words that I don’t understand.”
“That’s fine, Yuri,” I say. “Try again when you’re older.”
He’s writing his own
In the company run Jackson County Library, we made our own leather bound books at a community building function.
I’ve been filling mine with poetic epigraphs for the sequel to Ranger of Path. Yuri’s been filling his with art and words to his own story. Curiosity tugs, but I’ll let him keep his privacy.
He’s grown up enough for that.