The Gift That Keeps On Growing
"Can you believe tomorrow will be one of the last times I walk Dibs to school?" Adam said to me. I put down the dish soap and turned back to find a saddened face. Not so little anymore, huh? Then it hit me. The last 6 years feel like they've come and gone quickly and at the same time not so much, if that makes sense. I remember the first time I met that sweet face. I walked in thru the door of the old condo, Samantha's tail was wagging quickly from side to side-sniffing every bit of me she could get her nose on. I love dogs, labs are just the sweetest! I walked down the entryway to find a little blonde head, standing, facing the tv with a controller in hand swinging away at the air. "HI Dylan! Im K!" Within seconds after saying his name, Dylan dove head first into the couch, turned upside down and started rolling around in the sofa yelling "Ahhh, ahhh, ahh!". I couldn't really make out his face, all I saw was his butt in the air and legs everywhere. After having his little "moment" he grabbed his controller once again and without really acknowledging me, went back to playing his game. At the time, I didn't have much experience with kids but I could tell he liked me. He just had a different way of showing it.
You see, Dylan had been a very shy boy. The kind who doesn't let go of your arm at another child's birthday party and wants to play with you instead. I was a different child. The type that was opening the door while the car is still in motion, who's crying when parents pick them up begging to stay a little longer. I didn't know much about kids or divorce, but Adam meant a great deal to me. Obviously, Dylan is important to Adam so I spent most of my free time with the two of them. It was tons of fun! I knew what he wanted to do and had the routine memorized. Play video games, eat some snacks, take the dog for a walk, play outside and watch cartoons. I loved every second of it, but as an extrovert it was hard to understand why he didn't want to spend time with kids. It was something Dylan and I did not have in common. After all these years, I realize as hard as it was for me to stay quiet, it was twice as hard for him to get the words out.
It was heartbreaking to watch him interact during sporting activities. Oftentimes, he sat at the end of the dugout bench, timidly watching the kids yelling and going crazy. Not a peep out of him. I wanted to run out there and do the socializing for him, but I knew it wasn't quite that simple. It was something he needed to do for himself. Some days, I wasn't sure if it was even possible. My husband decided that along with playing recreational baseball, he would hire a private coach that would help Dylan tweak some skills. I very much enjoyed cheering him on at the field, but kept asking myself if it was all worth it. His lack of confidence didn't allow him to perform in the games the way he did in front the coach. I was very frustrated and discouraged and can only imagine how Dylan must have felt. Unlike me, Adam never lost the faith. He saw talent where I couldn't. He believed if Dylan experienced success in sports through his own hard work, it would improve his self confidence and overall self assurance. He spent most of his time during his days off helping Dylan practice. Pop ups, catching, proper swing, bunting-you name it. Day in and day out. That's what parents do, isn't it? They always see the best in their children. He was getting significantly better and with that progress came more opportunities. He was getting noticed. Coaches were commending his sportsmanship as he brought a great attitude to the field. Kids were complimenting his skills, he could swing that bat like no one's business and pitch too! His brain was connecting with his arm and BAM, we had ourselves a star player! Soon he would be hand picked to play in different tournaments in which he excelled. Although he had the curse of the losing team, his individual performance was enhancing by the minute. Our little All Star was growing in leaps and bounds, but still quiet, after all. He needed little reminders "Remember to say hi when someone says hi to you, Dylan", "Loud enough where they can hear you, Dylan". "Dibs, isn't it nice when someone gives you a compliment? Make sure you give one back, ok? It'll make someone else feel good" Like I always say, if you do something enough, it will become a habit.
Then 2 years ago, Adam came home after a parent-teacher conference. "Dylan is excelling in all of the subjects covered in class. There's only one thing the teacher pointed out that he thinks Dylan needs to work on." Adam LOVEESSS to do this to me! He leaves out some gut wrenching, cliff-hanging piece of information just so to see me suffer. OUT WITH IT ALREADY! WHAT IS THIS ONE THING? The teacher said Dylan is chatty and needs to be quieter during lessons." He what?! I was not at the conference, but I can tell you that Adam was just as shocked if not more than I was. So he talks! To other kids! A lot! This was stupendous news. While other parents (such as my own) were busy trying to find a muzzle that would not be considered abusive to a child, Adam and I were high fiving one another in the kitchen. Dylan talking meant so much more than just Dylan talking. It meant he was making an appearance out of his little shell. It meant he had courage. Adam determined it was best not to say anything about it and I immediately agreed. The behavior was a direct correlation of his new found self confidence and we were not about to suppress it. That day after school, we picked him up and praised him for all of his hard work. He knew we were proud.
Little by little, we overheard little voices out of big yellow school buses yelling out "Bye Dylan!" as we walked to our car. He would wave and say bye in his diminutive little voice. Then came his first sleep over. Adam and I spent the night twiddling our thumbs and looking back at one another. Sooo, this is awkward... We continuously checked the ringers on our phones, waiting for a call informing us he wasn't happy, he didn't want to stay or that perhaps he was homesick. The call never came. Just as we watched him ride a bike for the first time, I watched an independent boy leave home for the night.
Although he is not my son by birth, I can empathize with parents who wish their kids would stay little. Dylan has grown in leaps in bounds. He learned to ski, snorkel and most recently became a certified junior scuba diver. We've included him in as many activities as we possibly can not only to keep him out of trouble, but so that he has memories of us as a family. As we embark on this new journey we call Junior High, our worries hold much more weight. Dylan will once again be the little fish in a big pond. Will he make the right choices? Will he have the strenght to turn away from adversity? We spent a large portion of his younger years building a bond that we hope has been engraved in his heart. We hope to continue solidifying that bond as he continues to grow. We will ensure that Dylan understands that we will never expect perfection from him. All we want is his trust. The trust to come to us with his problems and concerns. We hope the bonds we have formed through the years will help him realize he always has a place to turn no matter what the situation may be and that he will have the inner strength and confidence to resist peer pressure.
I've had the privilege of being present for many of his firsts. The first time he rode a bike without training wheels, the first time he rode a boogie board, the first time he learned to snorkel and even his first public speech at our wedding. The upcoming years will bring excitement along with challenges. We'll be right by his side because just like everything in life, the work you put in will be manifested in the results. We trust that the fruits of our labor will not let us down as they have yet to do so.
Six years ago, I didn't know how much our relationship would evolve, or how beautiful it is to love a child. We've grown closer together with each and every year. I have learned to be patient, understanding and empathetic, but the most amazing thing I've learned is the beauty of being selfless for the sake of a child. Parenting does not always come inherently. Sometimes, you have to use your heart and best judgement in deciding how to raise your child. We will not always have the desired results after making a decision and must lead by taking ownership of our mistakes. Our children will learn by observing our behaviors and trust us if our teachings are consistent with our actions. The beauty of all of this is that being a good parent will also make us a good person.
What's the next first, you wonder? Teaching the boy to dance! Because there's nothing better than a nice jewish boys who’s got the moves.