Now, How On Earth Did I End Up With A Six-Year-Old? (Love, Your Mother)

August 2
Tabuaço, Portugal

For what it’s worth, today I still have a little boy.  I still have a little boy who tells me not to go too far when it’s time to put out the lights, even though I’ve been sleeping in a bed right next to him for months.  I still have a little boy who can somehow find the only muddy puddle to stomp in across all of Southern Portugal in the height of summertime.  I still have a little boy whose knobby knees and two left feet have far outpaced the growth of the rest of his body.  I still have a little boy whose idea of a shark-skin suit is more pretty much verbatim. I still have a little boy, but I’ll admit it… I’ve only got him by the tail.

The truth is, Oliver is slipping out of that little boy (shark) skin and trading up every day for something else; something that’s just a bit wiser, just a little more shrewd, something a little deeper, something that pushes the edge of my understanding further.  His voice has grown clearer, his eyes more focused.  He’s knee-deep in what one sympathetic Spanish mama informed me was the “Primer Resistencia”, the first resistance.  And she was more than right. Ollie can wrangle a late bedtime better than any little kid I know, and he can stretch “five more minutes on the iPad” into twenty with the blink of an eye.  It goes without saying that I have to run to keep up with him, always.  But once in a while he’ll pull me close to him before he falls to sleep, hold my face in his hands and give me that look.  He’ll say, “Mama, you keep on being a good mama, ok?”

Oliver is a force of nature. He hums along at a speed that has seldom been recorded in humans; he ricochets off hard surfaces as if his entire skeletal system was air force-grade.  I have seen grown men begin panting with exhaustion after a semi-prolonged encounter.  At three years old, he leapt over a cobra when it crawled across his path in the Bokor Mountains of Cambodia.  He charms, he deconstructs, he conjures and he destroys.  But just when I am sure that he must be Shiva incarnate, he bends on one knee to help the smallest child at the playground up on to the swings.

He desires an answer to all things, immediately, all the time.  In fact, once it was extremely urgent that he had my opinion (which he still interprets as fact, God bless him) whether or not a hippopotamus or giant squid would win in a fight. When I told him there could never be such a chance encounter, he regarded me with deep sadness.  He simply shook his head and reminded me that, “anything is possible”, followed by, “what about one orca versus six Bengal tigers?  Who would win in that one, Mama?”

I suppose he’s right, anything is possible. Six years ago, a little boy with blue-green eyes was dropped right into our laps, and it just so happened that every fiber of his being was perfectly suited for adventuring.  Six years ago when I was still an awestruck and somewhat petrified new mother, I would look down at that little infant again and again, recalling everything that had come to pass that had brought me to that moment, and think that, indeed, anything was possible.