Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seeing with New Eyes

Living with a 5 year old is an interesting experience. My son meets the world with fresh eyes each morning. We recently went on a trip to Chicago and it was as if I had never been before. It amazes me how little it takes to impress a child. I am constantly in awe of how enthusiastic my son is about life. Everything is important. Everything is interesting.

My son loves airports. He loves going through the security gate. My normally shy guy (borderline recalcitrant to adults), just grins at the folks in uniform. He hands the security guard his boarding pass, grinning the whole way, gives the guy a high five, and bounds up to the end of the x-ray machine to watch his plastic bin holding his backpack and shoes come through the machine. "Did you put your bag in there too mom?" "Why do we have to take our shoes off?" "They won't lose my transformer will they?" "Can you tie my shoes?"

Then we proceed to the terminal. My son bumps into people the whole way because he is incapable of looking where he is walking. And man o man if we have a people mover or escalator before we get there, we have arrived in airport heaven. If I said it once, I said nine thousand times, "Pay attention to where you are walking. You are in the way of other people. Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me or I will have to hold your hand. Walk with me. Walk right here beside me. Son. Son. SON--right here, NOW." Who knew reading off the gate letter/numbers, watching all the tvs, looking at the airplane models hanging from the ceiling, reading off the fast food marquees, and going down the up escalators full of people trying to go up was so intensely satisfying?

The plane ride itself just thrills him. "Oh, we're taking off now mom!" "Look at the clouds mom. What are clouds made of?" "Is that the man who is driving talking?" "What's in that cart?" "What's this button for mom?" "Help me play Leapster mom." "Let's go mom, we've landed." "On to the next plane." All of these comments and many more at top volume. Inside voice does not translate for him. He has not the executive functioning skills yet to monitor his volume, much to my chagrin. My mother would call this payback for surviving years of the same from me. Of course, she thinks I still have volume control issues, but that's another topic entirely.

Downtown Chicago was just over the top. We all had a wonderful day sight seeing. We spent a long time at the Museum of Science and Industry, and then we went to the Sears Tower. At the end of the day, my son says, "I got two toys, a movie, two escalator rides, a train ride, AND a water bottle out of the machine. Man I'm a really lucky boy mom."

And later when we traveled to Iowa City for his father's alumni meeting, it was just my son and me. We went out to lunch. "Hey will you draw this maze with me (on the kids' menu)?" We went to the antique car museum. "Wow look at all these cars. Do you think they have our car in here?" We went for ice cream. "Thanks for my ice cream mom, would you like a taste?" I just wanted to bottle the day and take it home with me.

There are other day to day reminders that he is just as easily enthusiastic about life at home as anywhere else. Getting stickers from the Walmart lady. Getting a sucker from the bank teller. Riding the escalator at the mall. Getting a balloon at the end of lunch at Chick-fil-A. Having a snack if he finishes his lunch at school. Going by an ambulance or fire truck with the siren on. Practicing piano together just because it's fun to sit together and do something while little brother naps. I want to absorb all these sweet precious things. One, because it reminds me how little he still is. And two, someday when he's a teenager and I think he has been inhabited by aliens, I want to remember that once I could rock his world with a popsicle and a kiss. It also helps me keep a lid on my frustration when I arrive at a teachable moment and blow it.

Taking my son on this little excursion to Chicago was like signing a new lease on our relationship. I forgot what it was like to have just one child (little brother stayed home). I had recently forgotten how much fun and how funny and truly insightful my 5 year old can be. I am so very blessed to have the opportunity to travel at all. To make memories like these with my son is extra-special. I hope someday he'll be able to remember this trip. Maybe he won't, but I know I will. So, "Thanks son, I'm really a lucky mom."