In response to Writing Prompt asking, “How special is a son to his mother?
When the sonogram confirmed I was going to have a boy, I sobbed. I didn’t know anything about doing “boy” things. I was a fashionista with pristine nails and a closet full of high heels. Growing up, I was the youngest child so I never had to care for a younger brother. On top of that, back in my day girls didn’t play sports. We were cheerleaders and volunteered as Candy Stripers at the local hospital.
A boy? OMG!
Turns out having a son is the greatest blessing a woman can have in life. Looking back, I feel like I’ve lived two lives. My “girlie-girl” life until my son was born. Then my rough-and-tumble, kick butt life.
My first goal as the mom of a son was to raise him outside of gender stereotypes. My father, a retired military man, thought I was silly. He said boys and girls are hard-wired to be the way they are. I thought that was old-world thinking. I bought Nate a Little Tikes dollhouse with little people and a vacuum cleaner. My proof to my father that boys also enjoy “girl toys.” On a Sunday afternoon when my dad was visiting and Nate was playing with the dollhouse, we watched as Nate carefully set each little person on the pink dollhouse roof. He took four steps back, clasped his hands together, extended his arms, pointed his forefingers, raised his thumbs and while swinging his hands back and forth made the sound of machine gun fire. My father turned to me and smiled.
OK. I had to learn how to do “boy things” in addition to teaching Nate “girl things.”
One day just before Christmas, when my son was about 6 years old, a co-worker was saying he got his son a “kitty cat” for Christmas. I asked him where he was hiding it and Jim said, “In the basement.” “Doesn’t it make noise the boys can hear?” I asked. He chuckled and said, “Not that kind of kitty cat! It’s a snowmobile for kids.” That was the year I was introduced to power sports.
By the time Nate was 14 years old, we had a fleet of snowmobiles, ATVs and personal watercraft. We were fully immersed in a lifestyle I cannot imagine I would have ever experienced if I had had a daughter. Weekends were all about loading up the machines of the season and driving to spots to enjoy them: snowmobiling and ATV riding on the trails “up north,” as they like to say in Minnesota and riding PWC in the summer. Turns out loading and unloading machines on and off trailers is pretty good exercise. I happily gave up my gym membership.
Nate got the itch to race. He wanted to race motorcycles, but we didn’t have any place he could practice. So he suggested, “What about sleds?” (nickname for “snowmobiles.”) I took him to a local snowmobile race so he could learn more about racing. One rider came over a hill, landed and fell off his Polaris. The racer behind him couldn’t see him because his sightline was blocked by the jump. By the time he came over the jump, he didn’t have the ability to adjust and he landed square on the racer that had fallen off his sled. 600 pound of metal. The paramedics came out and took the first racer away. It was later reported his back was broken.
Nope. I wasn’t letting Nate race snowmobiles!
We agreed he could race PWC, aka “jet skis.” There were the stand-up models and the sit-down models. We owned sit downs but the stand-ups required much greater athleticism and for a teen boy were a lot more fun to race. There were really only two choices; a Kawasaki 800SX-R or a Yamaha Super Jet. He opted for the Kawi. Every weekend we’d go to the lake, drop buoys to create a race course and I’d sit on my Yamaha Wave Runner while he practiced. When he flew off, I’d ride over, pick him up, take him to his ski and he’d do it all over again. Sun up to sun down.
During race season, we’d travel the five-state area for him to compete. Just the two of us. In the Ford Excursion. Looking back, this was one of the best times ever. We had great conversations about teenage angst, girls and lifetime dreams. He really opened up on these drives. That’s also where we bonded over music. One of the songs on his iPod was Eminem’s “Sing for the Moment” mashup with Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” When the Aerosmith portion came on I began singing at the top of my lungs. He turned to me and said, “How do you know this song?” As if the Aerosmith portion of the mashup was released at the same time as “Sing for the Moment.”
When I was pregnant, I imagined my role to be the teacher and his to be the student. I hoped to teach him empathy and nurturing, intellectual curiosity, personal accountability, and social consciousness. He’s 27 now and I can honestly say, as a student in these areas, he has earned an A+. What I didn’t imagine 27 years ago was that I would also be a student on this journey as a mom. In hindsight, if I had had a daughter I would never have experienced many things having a son exposed me to. I reached beyond my own comfort zone, I explored a world I didn’t even know existed and I will be forever blessed as the mom of a son.
Unknown to me at the time of his birth, his name, Nathan, means “a gift from God.” He has absolutely lived up to his name and I have been the fortunate recipient.
Photo credit: the author