This afternoon Ethan & I were driving to a friends house after I picked him up from summer camp. We were chit-chatting about his day--you know, the standard run of undecipherable, but clearly VERY important happenings, including, if I translated the 4 year old speak correctly, someone who was digging for bugs in the play ground, someone who fell down & was crying, and how he ate "all of his lunch except his bagel," which means he ate a tiny packet of Annie's Organic gummy bunnies (where's my Mother of the Year award? Give it!) and a small cup of apple sauce. Yeah, kid, the bagel kind of was lunch, but whatever.
After we'd exhausted that well of conversational opportunity, we fell quiet as I drove. Ah, peaceful. How nice, driving with my little boy, on our way to a play date, not a care in the world. How lucky I am to be this little guy's mama & get to spend so much time with him.
"You know some day, mom, when I'm a big boy, I'm going to drive a Judy car." (note: a "Judy car" is Ethan's name for any model Volkswagen, from an old-timey VW bus to a Toureg, since his Grandma Judy drives a Jetta.)
Which? Is adorable. This is the kid who asked for a red Ferrari for Channuka, but when it comes down to it, what he really wants is a nice reliable VW like Grandma has.
"That sounds great, buddy. Can't wait for you to drive me around in your Judy car."
And then he went on...
"I'm going to drive a Judy car & I'm going to be a teacher."
Okay, I think. I was a teacher; that's cool. Lately its occurred to me that since I am a stay-at-home mom now, this kid has no idea who I used to be, what I used to do & that someone used to pay me good money for using my brain. So I've talked a bit about how I used to be a teacher & how I loved it, but I love being his mommy more. So I guess the "I'm going to be a teacher" thing came from that.
"That's cool, buddy! Being a teacher is a wonderful thing to do with your life. I bet you'll be an awesome teacher."
But there was more....
"When I'm a big grown up boy, I'm going to be a teacher & drive a Judy car & I'm going to live in Los Angeles. I'm going to move to Los Angeles when I grow up, and have my own house, mommy, because someday I'm going to be a big boy & I can't live with you forever. But I will come & visit you a lot. And you can call me anytime you want."
Um. Cue melodramatic panic attack.
Who has been filling my child's brain with this crazy talk about growing up & moving HUNDREDS of miles away from me??!! Only weeks ago he was telling me that someday he was going to marry me when he grows up! (also slightly panic attack inducing, but for totally different reasons.) Now, in his mind, he owns his own home & car, has a career, and lives 300 miles from me??!!! All that's missing is the money-grubbing harlot who can never be good enough for my son!!!! This is bullshit, people!!!
Clearly, I am being hyperbolic (is that a word?) I love the idea that Ethan tries to envision his future life in real & possible terms. You know, as opposed to, "I'm John Lennon, mommy. I'm writing a new Beatles song with Ringo" (pointing to the cat, who's named Echo, not Ringo. And who can't play drums, or write songs. And nevermind that John's writing partner was Paul, not Ringo. But whatever). I love that he admires his own teacher and/or has listened to my stories of being a teacher enough that he, if only in passing 4 year old conversation, chooses "teacher" over rock star, fireman or astronaut as his future profession. And I love that even though he's not seen his grandmother's car in over a year, every single Volkswagen that goes by reminds him of her.
What made me get all puddle-of-weepy in the front seat as Ethan went on about what he's going to be when he grows up and where he's going to live and what he's going to drive was the idea that he already seems to know that's all going to happen without me. While I'm far away.
Oh my heart. Elizabeth Stone (I have no idea who that is, but quotation.com says it's her) said, "“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Indeed.
I realized today, as Ethan was carrying on about how he will come and visit me at my house & that I can call him any time I want to at his house, that my heart is one day going to get on a plane, or into a car or a train & whisk away from my daily life. As I did from my parents. As Husband did from his parents. And I wonder, did their hearts break at that moment as much as I imagine mine will?
It's cliche, really. I know. I can't help but think of the scene from "Father of the Bride" when the character of the daughter, who's 22 years old, announces her engagement. From the perspective of her father, the person who, until now, has loved her more than anyone in the world, the daughter across from him, sharing her big news, is a 5 year old, pig-tailed pipsqueak.
I'm sure when the time comes for Ethan to leave home & pursue his dreams, we will be overjoyed with hope and anticipation for him & the good things that lie ahead of him. And honestly, if the kid doesn't start going to bed at night without throwing a fit pretty soon, I am guessing Husband & I will just be thrilled for the peace & quiet between the hours of 7-9pm.
But today, as Ethan laid out his big dreams for his future, one that clearly only included me as a periphery figure in the day-to-day, my heart ached. The days go by so fast. I've been making a more mindful and conscious effort to soak in the moments, appreciate the time I spend with him. There are more tickle fights and snuggles and conversations about all of his "why"'s. I take pictures daily. I tell him I love him 100 times a day. I take deep breaths & thank the universe for him every night before I go to sleep.
But it still goes by too fast.