There are so many things you want to say to a boy on the verge of adolescence. It's so easy when they are babies and toddlers to think you will always be able to right each wrong, soften each blow, solve all the problems they encounter with a hug.
Now that he's going off to cub camps, and retreating to his bedroom to read books because he wants down time, I see that it is only going to get harder to stay present in his life. My instinct is to pull him closer and not let go, but instead I look for new ways to connect with him without hanging on. I invite him on my morning run a couple of times a week now. He doesn't always come, but on the days he does the sun shines brighter. We still have our imaginative midnight dream-adventures, and I ask for his help often enough to make him feel useful.
For his 10th birthday last week, as part of his cache of gifts, I gave him a copy of Rudyard Kipling's poem, If. It's a poem that Roger Whittaker sang, calling it "Song for Erik" which seemed apt. I don't think it really meant much to him now, but this is the same kid who has kept all the lunch kit notes I have left him over the years, so I have faith that one day he'll appreciate it.
This is what I want to say to him.
Song For Erik (If)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much...
If I sometimes long for those days when he was 4 and clung to me with a big smile whever we went anywhere, it's only nostalgia speaking. The truth is I couldn't be more proud of Erik, of this problem-solving, independent, thoughful, lone wolf son I have. This camping, canoing, bow-wielding, soccer playing 10 year old.