This is a photo of the Baby of my Heart, as I have always called Bailey, at age one, nearly twelve years ago. He loved boxes and would squeal with delight if he saw the UPS guy in our driveway. It never mattered what the boxes contained; the boxes were the fun part. As you can see, most often Bailey himself ended up in the box.
He has always been a talker, this boy of mine. He talks through his feelings and ideas, and can give you the play-by-play of every baseball, basketball or soccer game in which he has ever played and scored. This past week when he was away with a grade-seven trip to Izu, south of Tokyo, the house was wildly quiet. He has also always been an independent and curious person, eager to explore the world and what it has to offer. He never went through an attachment phase and he has never minded leaving my side to go to school, to a sleepover, or even sleep-away camp. He is always happy to come home and holds on tight when he’s here, but leaving is not an issue.
So last night, after the three days away with very little sleeping, he went to bed early. By 2:30am he was in my room, waking me up. “I feel funny, Mom,” he said. Well, it’s really to be expected, I explained. Just as his body is changing through puberty, so is his brain. Part of the issue was that when they were away near the beach, they were required to shake out their shoes lest there be a caterpillar in them – the biting type of bugs, and he was concerned that one might have gotten into his stuff that he brought home. His bag, when he brought it into the house and opened it, exploded in a mass of wet and stink! I assured him that we had already thrown his entire bag into the laundry and there was not a bug in sight. But then he went into the particulars of the social nuances of the week he had spent. There was one kid on the trip who was a bully and no one liked him any better on the trip than they did at school. There was one boy on the trip who is “different” – on the autism spectrum – and Bailey tried his best to include him with varying degrees of success. He talked to and played card games with girls for the first time. He was concerned that some of the teasing that occurred on the trip would be carried over back into school. He feels glad that he has a lot of friends spread out over various social “groups” at school, but gets frustrated that the groups, which he is experiencing for the first time, exist at all. He keeps asking why everyone can’t just sit together – why does he have to choose which group to sit with at lunch every day?
All of those questions and that information came out in the hour between 2:30 and 3:30am last night. I didn’t say much – just listened and gave a few minor suggestions. Finally, as his talking slowed, I told him to just go to sleep. Just stay there and go to sleep. As he fell asleep and I stroked his hair, I assured him that he was normal. I told him I appreciated that he wanted to talk to me and that I would never say no to a conversation. If he wanted me in the middle of the night, he should always come to get me – or his dad. I did assure him that we are good for talking in the middle of the day, also, and at other times when we’re normally supposed to be awake.
The baby in the box is definitively out of the box and out in the real world these days. In just three months he will be a teenager and I feel like we’re just at the start of the all the changes that are on the horizon. It is going to be a wild ride, I am certain. But I do realize that if I can get Bailey to keep talking to me, then we’re most likely going to get through it just fine. I admire the young man he is becoming as much as I adored that little boy in the box. Here we go.