Let's talk about Zach for a bit here, shall we?
It's a rhetorical question because, well, I'M THE DECIDER.
(Almost makes you miss the guy doesn't it? I said ALMOST, settle down.)
It's been a while since I've written about son #1. He's been busy - growing up, both literally and figuratively.
Don't worry, the Z-man is still my endless supplier of unintended hilarity and Zombie-apocalypse obsessor. "Mom, if you were fighting zombies, what weapon would you choose? Sword? Shotgun?" Me: "Flame-thrower. HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING?" "But you'll set the house on fire." Me: "... seriously, if I'm throwing down with zombies then I don't think I'm going to be too worried about the condition of the house." "Good point."
But before my eyes he's also gone from boy to young man in what seemed like a flash. Note the emphasis on man. This is because many people use the term "young man" or "young woman" as a general descriptor for kids who are no longer little, but in this case I use it because I can actually see the man he is becoming.
Not just physically, though, that's obviously a part of it. He's responded well to the growth hormone over the last year and now is on the brink of looking me straight in the eye. I'm not a tall person, but still, when your child is suddenly your equal or better size-wise, the dynamic changes.
No longer the protector - though, in my case, the Mama-Bear attitude will continue to trump all evil that might come his way - it's a very strange thing to hug this person that used to be my baby, my little dude, but is now as big as I am and getting bigger. The voice that talks both to me and back at me now, is not that of my little boy, but of the man he will be before I know it and it's definitely an adjustment for both of us. Physical authority is no longer a component of our interactions so I truly have to rely on his respect for me on the occasions when we might be at odds. Might sound strange to say that, but think about it - when you are exerting authority over your child for any reason when they are smaller than you, the fact that you are bigger certainly plays a role. It's a far more daunting prospect to argue with someone who is looking down at you and is clearly more powerful in both voice and physique.
"WHY? BECAUSE I'M BIGGER THAN YOU, THAT'S WHY. NOW GO TO BED!"
Not so much these days.
Teenagerdom is definitely the court in which the relationship you've cultivated with your child is tried.
I'm lucky though. Zach is just a great person, he really is. If you've been following the blog for some time you've had glimpses of this through both my writing and his. Sure, there's the occasional eye rolling, attitude, and argument, but I'd be thinking "gah, Stepford son!" if there weren't.
Zach's jump in to this big puddle of maturity has led to some changes in his relationship with Toad as well. Good ones.
For a long time, Zach and Toadie have not differed a great deal size-wise. Maybe about 2 inches or so in height and a few pounds in weight. This made it really tough for Zach to deal with Toad physically. I also think it interfered with a strong bond because Toad's focus when it comes to his people, is adults. Traditionally, they are quite a bit bigger than he is. But as Z has shot-up quite significantly over Toad now, he seems to have made the transition in to that category.
Zach is taking more of an interest in helping with Toad these days, I'm sure as a result of both the new physical dynamic, as well as his growing sense of responsibility. He's always been keenly interested in his brother's well being, both at present as well as down the road. But these days it's an active interest. And I am acutely aware that a component of it is as much about my well being as it is about Toad's, but that's something Zach has held within him all along. I don't require anything of him, nor do I expect anything except what is reasonable in any given situation (I have bags in my hands, I ask him to hold Toad's hand to cross the parking lot; we're in a store, I need to look at something, Toad moves away, I have Zach keep an eye on him for a minute; things like that). I certainly don't have any expectations of him as far as Toad's future is concerned, I would never put him in that position and he knows that. But he has a strong sense of duty when it comes to both me and Toadie... seriously?... FINE ... <insert your own poo joke here> ... and it only seems to be taking hold more firmly as he's getting older.
Mind you he is still just 14. So occasionally this thought process can be a bit... 14. A recent conversation not involving zombies, in which we were talking about something in the future. Me: "Wait, if we're doing that, where's Josh going to be??" Zach: "Oh, he'll be with Ronnie."
" um, Ronnie? You mean, 8th grade RONNIE, your friend from school Ronnie? THAT Ronnie?"
Zach: "Yeah, Ronnie."
Me: "So, Ronnie is going to be looking after Josh. When he's 30-40 years old. Is he aware of this?" (at this point I was laughing pretty hard... )
Zach: "Well, I just figured he's my friend, so, he wouldn't mind... "
Oh my sweet son. I do love you.
"He'll be with Ronnie." The matter-of-factness with which he said this was what killed me. Still makes me giggle, and now it's a bit of a joke between us - "mom where's Josh?" "He's with Ronnie." - but in all seriousness, he clearly thinks about these things a great deal.
More and more he offers to help out when Toad is unhappy, he's become a master of the tickle-distraction. The ability/willingness to interact with Toadie like this as well as when he's fine, has helped foster a bond between them that I haven't seen since the diagnosis. The picture of Toad hugging Zach at the amusement park in the Strange Days post really reflects the change. As I mentioned earlier, I think that Zach's comfort level has increased now that he's significantly bigger than Toad, and Toad can sense that, which translates to Zach is the man. A snapshot for you: a few days ago, I was trying to get some time on the treadmill. I usually wait till everyone's asleep, but I'm often too tired and Toad's been up a lot recently. I had Zach keeping an eye on him - sure enough, Toad comes in and is very giggly - he REALLY wanted to put his hands on the treadmill belt as I was walking. Texture, motion, ALL VERY SENSORY. But I didn't want his hands or fingers to get caught in it so Zach came in to mind him. Long story short, Toadie was in a good mood even though Z was keeping him from touching the treadmill deck and the two of them were basically in a dog-pile on the floor beside the treadmill, with Toad laughing himself silly and Z tackling him every time he tried to get too close. Then Toad kept asking me for wrinkles so I had to keep bending down with my forehead so he could kiss it while still trying to walk 4 miles an hour on the treadmill. Dog pile? Oh yes Buddy was there too. Almost on the treadmill WITH me like freaking Astro from the Jetsons. A bit of a zoo. I gave up. But Zach and Toad were having fun and that, was very cool.
Then, the other day at the grocery store, both boys were with me and Zach was going to head off and get something on his own. As he started to walk away, Toadie turned around and went straight after him. He's never done that before. Zach and I just looked at each other... Zach tried to leave again... Toad yelled "NO!" and went after Zach. This is a new thing. Zach was both thrilled, and a bit peeved - but mostly thrilled. After almost 12 years of very little attention from his brother, he now sees how important he is to Toad. And I believe all it took was some initiative and confidence on Zach's part.
Zach's career path has also evolved, commensurate with his impending gig as a grown-up. There was a time when all he wanted to do was work for Blizzard Entertainment as a Game Master so he could just play World of Warcraft forever and ever. Don't get me wrong, I realize that this is actually possible. It was the motivation that was suspect, though not at all surprising for his age. But, over the last several months he has left behind the notion of earning a living playing a video game, and wants to be a vet. As in veterinarian. Which makes sense, given his love of animals. Buddy and Chewy say thumbs up, bro. Well, Chewy anyway, Buddy doesn't have thumbs.
So this child of mine is really, truly on his way. You always know it's coming, from the moment they are born, you know it. But you don't really see it until they reach their teens when you realize suddenly that they are almost there already. It's amazing to me that this little person, will in just a few short years, be one very awesome adult.
I know this because he's already one very awesome young man.