“Is this your first boy?” the anesthesiologist asked, as he made preparations for my son’s arrival. I nodded in reply as we both waited for the contraction to subside. He then grinned at the doctor and jokingly gave me and my husband one last piece of advice: “You better go buy yourselves a hardhat!”.
The miraculous anesthesia took effect and my mind began to wander as my body relaxed. Memory found me lying on an examination table, just a few months earlier, watching the cloudy shadows on the ultrasound monitor. The steady flutter of the heartbeat brought visible relief to all of our faces as we had recently miscarried. The electronic measurements indicated that the fetus was healthy and growing on schedule. Anticipating the news about the baby’s gender for weeks, I was excited when the radiologist pointed to the corner of the screen and announced, “It’s a boy.”
Elated, I smiled at my husband and began to imagine who this little boy would become. “I am still trying to figure out how to be a mother to my three- year old daughter. Will I know how to interact with a second child? A BOY?” I wondered. I admit that I was a bit apprehensive of the unknown as my only knowledge of “boys” was growing up with two often-annoying brothers. Would I know how to interact with a son? After all, boys and girls have spoken different languages since the beginning of time. My relief brought with it excitement and many unanswered questions.
My impatient, unborn son reminded me of his imminent entrance, so I was abruptly brought back to the reality of the delivery room. My last moments of pregnancy were intense and indescribable. At 6:47 a.m. the doctor placed a healthy, screaming newborn on my abdomen and confirmed, “It’s a Boy!”. I cried out with relief as I reached out to touch my perfect 6 lb. 4 oz. son, confident that he was the most beautiful baby boy ever born. I held our tiny miracle for the first time and sensed that I was embarking on a new adventure. Little did I realize that the world as I knew it would never again be the same.
Any misgivings that I may have had about raising a “male” child were quickly forgotten as I watched Tyler discover the world day by day. While I didn’t feel very knowledgeable about “boys” it didn’t matter because he was “my boy”. I loved to see him smile and listen to his contagious laughter. Mother and son learned a lot from each other during that first year as he grew from infant to an active, energetic toddler. His art medium of choice was toothpaste, and he loved to climb onto the cupboards and into the dishwasher. There was never a dull moment with him around.
Always eager to explore and investigate, my one-year old son somehow managed to fall head-first out of a window, smashing his head onto the blacktop driveway below. While I fidgeted in the emergency room, waiting to talk to the doctor, those words of advice from the anesthesiologist came rushing back. Luckily, he recovered with only an ugly bruise on his forehead, but it was at that exact moment that I started considering buying our son a hard hat.
Both to my joy and chagrin, my tiny newborn quickly grew into a healthy, all-American boy. His bedroom was scattered with action figures, building blocks and dirty clothes; and he had a strong aversion to putting away his shoes or washing his face. My mechanical toddler collected duct tape, rocks, tools and anything with a set of wheels. By early childhood, he perfected the skill of falling and hitting his head. Sadly, the hard hat didn’t provide much protection to him, my walls (or his sisters’ fingers) as misadventure followed him through elementary school. A routine shower somehow ended with a chipped tooth and a scarred chin. Kindergarten brought with it xrays and broken fingers. A bicycle crash succeeded in knocking out both front teeth. We spent the evening of his pinewood derby sitting once again in the E.R. as the doctor stitched up an ugly gash to his knee. (Of course, we had to go show the other boys the 36 stitches later that night).
I cringe at those memories, but my son has taught me that these scars, bumps and bruises are mere badges of honor. I’ve long since given up on the hard hat, but I do rely heavily on seatbelts, helmets and emergency services. This boy of mine, who became my only son, has grown into a fine young man, but he has not outgrown the tendency to leave dirty socks on the floor or attract misadventure. Middle and high school included the cauterization of his thumb (after cutting the entire tip off with his pocket knife) a frantic call to 911 reporting a snowmobile fire in my back yard and two minor car accidents. I can assure you that nothing quite garners a mother’s attention as quickly as these words uttered at your front door on a Sunday afternoon: “Hurry, come quick. Tyler is lying underneath the 4-wheeler in your driveway!”.
This tough, boisterous (accident prone) exterior disguises the inner sensitive, thoughtful young man I adore. This son of mine will be the strongest defender his sisters will ever know–not due to brute strength, but because of an inner, protective loyalty that defies all of my preconceived ideas of “boys”. It is this side of him that entraps and captivates me. He is mischievously aware of that and is very adept at manipulating me with his bright eyes and contagious smile. In the past 17 years, he has skillfully mastered the art of teasing, flattery and charm, and he can be quite the gentleman as he quickly approaches adulthood. Still, I keep the insurance card in my wallet and the local doctor’s office phone number on my speed dial.
My son and I have discovered so much together, and he makes me laugh every single day. He is all grown up now and doesn’t need me as much as he once did, but I am confident that our relationship will last forever. My not-so-little-anymore boy is just a competitive, analytical and (don’t tell anyone) lovable guy. He thrives on being needed, and probably wouldn’t admit it, but he still wants to make his mother proud. For a few short moments I held my tiny 6 lb. infant in my arms, gazing down into his dark eyes, and dreamed of his future. I now look up to him (quite literally as he has now outgrown me by a good six inches) and long for his childhood. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I held his hand, walking him to his preschool class, stopping to watch the fascinating excavators and cement mixers? Now he is changing my oil, restoring tractors and ordering a tuxedo for next week’s junior prom. I will take the muddy shoes, skinned knees and broken bones right along with the awkward hugs and wrinkled, handwritten notes. I will carry these magical memories of his youth with me until I take my last breath.
In retrospect I am grateful that the doctor didn’t have time to give me any more details when I delivered my baby on that snowy November day. I have cherished the adventure of finding out for myself. I do feel a bit anxious as I think of my son walking across the stage to get his high school diploma next year. I hope that no accidents befall him as he trades in his childhood “hardhat” for his graduation cap and gown.