Last night, I completed the impossible: I got the boys fed, bathed, homeworked, and bedded at a reasonable hour. (I’m taking all the credit for this and not giving any to the festival they went to and wore themselves out.) Anyway, I sat down at my desk to work for a little bit and Little Locke #3 came downstairs.
You know I sighed. Twice.
Me: “What’s up? Why aren’t you in bed?”
Him: “My shoe laces are all knotted. Can you help me?”
Me: “Why are we doing this right now?”
Him: “Because it’s bothering me.”
Here’s the thing—this kid of mine, the third out of four, can barely keep his life together. He’s a mess, plain and simple. I imagine he will be one of those insanely successful men that will need an assistant or he might forget to eat for a week. (No, strike that. He’ll remember to eat, but he might not remember to tie his shoes or be able to find his office.)
I get up and go unravel his laces while he sits on the bed and makes small talk. It just takes a few minutes and then he’s tucked back in bed. After kissing his cheek, I move to turn the light off and he says, “Mom?”
Me: “Yeah, buddy?”
Him: “Thank you. That meant a lot to me.”
*cue the tears*
I nod, not wanting him to hear the lump in my throat, and return to my office. This time, I couldn’t work. All I could think about was the sincerity in his voice, the look of contentment on his face. I thought about it for a long time, actually, and realized it had nothing to do with the laces (although I’m sure that did bother him). What it did have to do with was him feeling important enough in my life to help him with something that mattered to him.
You know how a song will bring back memories? The first beats come on and you remember your friend’s laugh as she rapped the words or your mom’s smile as she sang the tune or your crazy ex-boyfriend as he took the curves going out of town at an all-too-high speed when you were in your wild teenage years? I had one of those moments last night with the shoelaces.
When I was a little girl, I had this nightlight. It was nothing special, but I loved it. I went to turn it on one night and the bulb was burned out and I was six-year-old-little-girl kind of devastated. Naturally, I went to find my daddy.
Dad was outside with one of his friends and I spared no seconds telling him I needed a new bulb. I was probably on the verge of panic, waving my little hands in the air and bringing all the dramatics. At that moment, this mattered. Dad told his buddy he’d be back, came in my room, changed the bulb (which took all of one minute), and then went back outside.
Did he have to do that? Nope. But he did. He had a way of knowing what was important and making me feel like I mattered. (Like the time he baked me a half lemon, half chocolate birthday cake. Worst and best cake ever, but that’s a story for another day.) That night with the little light has stuck with me thirty years because as I got ready for bed that night, I didn’t feel like a dumb kid that everyone ignored or put off for their adult life. He took the minute, you know?
I hope Little Locke #3 felt that way last night.
Little Locke #3 six or seven years ago, enjoying the fall weather.
Being a parent is tough work. How do you know when you’re doing too much? Not enough? Creating loved versus spoiled little rascals? I certainly don’t have all the answers, especially being an only child and having all boys. The things that are important to them, I can’t always identify with. (But you have eighty-nine trucks with blue paint that still have four wheels. Why do we care that this one lost a tire?)
Kids, man, they ask you for stuff every five minutes and it’s all important. All of it. And we have twenty-five hours of work to do in twenty-four hours a day (on a slow day) to get all of our things done so life can continue on (or the lights go off, the truck gets repossessed, and everyone starts to eat each other). It’s a guilt trip and a half, just waiting to happen. We don’t want to be flighty with their requests, but our own lives have to keep going so theirs can keep going too. Right? So how do we know when a set of mangled shoe laces (and they were really mangled – no one can do to shoe laces what Little Locke #3 can. Trust me.) is worth stopping everything and sorting out?
I’ve come to this conclusion: listen for it. You know what I mean. It’s the changed pitch of their voice, the octave they usually don’t use. It’s the slight wobble or maybe hint of severity that’s not typically found in their cadence. That’s when you know. It’s worth the minute. For both of you. <3
In Kindergarten, we wear ties.
He was obsessed with ties back in the day. So cute though, right?