Fourteen-year-old Thing-One started learning to duck in doorways almost two years ago, but no one would look at his face or hands and mistake him for a grown man. His voice, low and still hesitating, belies any maturity suggested by his broadening shoulders and long legs.
There are times, however, when even I, who has been carefully guarding my time with this child, am fooled. The confusion doesn’t stem from his size or matching appetite or even the flashes of independence he displays when refusing to do his homework.
I have been flummoxed more frequently over the last two months as an injured leg has forced me to delegate more physical activities to others. Thing-One, always charged with bringing in some firewood, has taken responsibility for the few loads I used to bring in, and he has stepped up in other ways.
He fetches. He hovers when I walk from car to door, constantly watching to make sure the person who taught him to walk doesn’t fall. I still need to sit on him to get homework done, but a few days ago as we drove home in a snowstorm, I realized what I’d been seeing for a few weeks. The windshield wiper was shredded from the ice, and Thing-One suggested pulling over. A few minutes later, he was out of the car and scraping the window before I could get my seat belt off. I started to open the door, but he yelled you’re the windshield, “Mom, I got this! You just stay there and be careful.”
And in that moment I knew I might not be seeing a fully grown man,but the person on the other side of the windshield was no boy. He was a growing man, and one who was doing a great job of it.