Today it happened – the moment that forever shattered whatever remaining baby innocence Tea had left. It’s too soon. I wanted to protect him longer. He’s such a gentle soul. But although I would not have chosen today, I feel privileged to have witnessed the moment. I suspect most mothers of boys do not have that opportunity.
I haven’t spent a full morning with just Tea and I at our local park since last fall. What a difference a few months can make! In the past, Tea would sometimes follow other kids around shyly, but mostly just play with me. Tea is now boldly trying to chat it up with anyone within earshot. (“Wanna ride on the dinosaur with me? Did you just go down that slide? Hey, how did you get all the way up there?”) I chalk this new-found confidence up to both age and the time we’ve spent with Pia’s awesome playgroup in the last few months.
The playground was packed with older kids today, as they’re on spring break. After striking out with some girls who didn’t quite understand why he thought they’d want to play with a kid half their size, Tea swaggered up two third grade boys who took Tea under their wings. They played with him so gently and sweetly I was in awe. They made sure he was doing safe, appropriate things. They led him by the hand to me after every minor bump and scrape to get checked out and cleared for further play. (I finally told them, “Really, he’s tough. If he’s not crying, he’s fine!”)
They lifted him up things he couldn’t climb. They slid endlessly down slides in trains of linked limbs, happily complying with Tea’s requests of LET’S D DO THAT AGAIN! They told other big kids to back off if they were playing to rough near him. They called him “Little Dude” , and then eventually asked him his name. I laughed out loud when I heard Tea give his first and last name.
I sat at a distance far enough away that Tea wasn’t self conscious, but I could still hear him clearly and watch them play. He’d grin over at me occasionally, but he mostly just basked with happiness in his new friends.
And then it happened. The moment that took away my baby forever. Halfway shielded by the climbing wall, I heard New Friend #1 say, “Hey, have you ever seen anyone do this before?” His arm, in slow motion, went under his shirt to his opposite armpit. He lowered his elbow. I heard the noise. I heard Tea giggle. New Friend #1 did it again. “It’s called an armpit fart. Do you think it’s funny?” (No lie, he asked this in all seriousness.) More giggling. New Friend #2 volunteered to teach Tea how to perform the noise himself. “Here, lift your shirt up and stick your hand in here. Raise your elbow – nope, this one. OK, now bring your elbow down really fast while you hold your armpit. It works because we’re kinda sweaty. See?” The giggling increased dramatically in volume and pitch.
And so we begin.