This was my life a little less than eighteen years ago.
I was 20. He was…weeks old.
This was my life four days ago.
And yesterday, was his eighteenth birthday.
He was my “baby bear”* until about kindergarten when he informed me he was no longer a baby. I reluctantly graduated him to “Bear” until about third grade when he explained with a huff that his name was NOT “bear”. And then, ironically, he hit high school and all his friends started calling him “Papa Bear” with absolutely no input from me.
He has spent the past ten years, give or take a few, adopting and looking out for every younger child around him. And he has been attempting to take care of me since he could toddle to the front door and fling himself against it yelling “NO MAMA” because I walked into the living room in just shorts and a sports bra to retrieve my purse but he was concerned I might try to leave the house in an indecent state of dress. The concern was cute until I tried to get my ears pierced with a second hole when he was about seven and a friend had to remove him the premises because he freaked out so badly.
I have received phone calls from teachers stating that he needs to be reprimanded but “He’s just so sweet I can’t do it…” Then there’s the time he told a teacher that if his eyes wandered during a test it was because he hit his head in P.E. and his eyes wouldn’t stay still…it certainly wouldn’t be because he was cheating. (She moved him into the hallway for the test if I remember correctly) And THEN there’s the time that he irritated a girl so much that she finally tackled him…into a cinder block wall. (And yet she still counted him among some of her best friends)
The character of Dominic Toretto (Fast and Furious franchise) repeats his mantra of “I don’t have friends, I have a family” so often in the movie series that it becomes a bit cheesy – but this kiddo has been living that for years. He is ferociously loyal and once you’re in his inner circle, he will adopt you and everyone you love. It can be a little overwhelming but somehow he always manages to win over….everyone. He has a multitude of “mom”s, all of which have contributed to his growth , and an impressive collection of “little sisters” that he fights with – and for. He has chosen to surround himself with guys that will hike the foothills with him, then spend hours playing video games…but they always hug their mamas before taking off.
He loves to make people smile and laugh and if someone leaves his presence without feeling loved, it’s not because he didn’t try. Young children adore him and he is always willing to give them his time and energy. He loves babies…and he loves the attention he gets from girls when he’s cuddling babies. He shaves his own head now (and let’s people rub it)…but “forgets” to shave his face. Sometimes he doesn’t see that line between funny and annoying until he’s well past it. Sometimes his family is as likely to swat him as they are to hug him. But he makes really good coffee.
There are plenty of stories I could tell many of which I need to write down for future generations but I won’t try to recount here and now. The point is, he’s eighteen. Four years ago, I sobbed as he entered high school because there were only four years left and he was nowhere ready for the world…and the world definitely wasn’t ready for him. Today I can say confidently that I think he’ll be okay. He’ll have some rough patches and he’ll learn some lessons the hard way. Most everyone does. But he’ll be fine in the end.
I’m still not sure the world is ready for him though.
* I let him preview/approve the pictures used in this post. He scanned part of the text as well and on the way to bed, kissed me on top of my head and said “I’m still your baby bear.” Dawww….