It was just cupcakes and he is not a toddler anymore. The giddy unadulterated joy that shone from his eyes, resonated through his laughter, and presented itself in his happy movement was unexpected. On a day off from school, really a field trip that he opted to forego, we took advantage of a rare few hours together, just the two of us. I had allowed him to make the choice for a couple of reasons. One, I was not eager to drive to Raleigh at the crack of dawn and two, he said he preferred to stay home and after encouraging and asking lots of questions, I determined there was no underlying issue and he simply did not want to go. In a nutshell, we gained a few hours as two year old Amos was at nanny share, two more siblings at school very reluctantly (I ignored their voracious high pitched protests) and I had a buddy for the day, my ten year old son and the oldest of four.
We dropped Amos off and headed to the grocery store where we each pushed a cart and shopped the specials, taking long bits of time to discuss price per pound vs. price per unit, shelf location related to marketing tactics and the cons of antibiotic chicken. My own chance to homeschool with no real agenda as that is not a strength of mine under pressure. It took well over an hour and without a combative two year old, was quite pleasurable for a task I typically deplore. We unloaded our carts and after I had returned them to the parking lot docking station, I caught a glimpse of my son, giddy and gleeful in the car. His laughter was not yet audible but the joy on his face was as pure as it comes.
I opened the car door and he howled in delight. I fired these questions at him. Did I have toilet paper on my shoe? A hole in my pants? Poop on my shirt? All likely possibilities and he shook his head voraciously from side to side and laughed some more. Finally out came the words, "it's just cupcakes!" and on his lap was a plastic white bag and inside a clear plastic package of cupcakes, white with icing and topped with brightly colored sprinkles.
He had sneaked them into the cart and won the game of cat and mouse. I would have bought them, though he knew I would have made him choose between those and the donuts I had knowingly purchased. He made it a game though and I was left awestruck with his little boy joy that I had missed and had been deceived into thinking was long gone.
Here he was though, right under my nose. Close enough to touch though I realize some days go by and I haven't offered a hug. Soccer practice, then a shower, means a late bedtime and my good night does not always include a long cuddle. I stopped giving good night kisses a while ago because he made such a showing of hiding beneath the covers but had I made a mistake? Had I misread his growing up due to my own preoccupation with his three siblings, the youngest particularly, two years old with extra special needs?
I had mentally documented the last time he held my hand. It was just over a year ago after we had ridden on a frightening roller coaster, the only brave members in our family of six. I am not really brave truthfully, but I never pass up an opportunity to surprise my children and want them to remember a mother who was fun, not the sideline type. I still begrudgingly purchased him stuffed animals as I continued to be amazed he craved their company. Perhaps I expected growing up and so I had placed that phase on him before he was ready.
I can backtrack though. Last night, I lay on his bed and he moved over to make room for me. I told him that I loved him and was proud of him. I noticed the deodorant, resting on his dresser, that I had purchased a few weeks ago after noticing his shirts could not be worn twice. It sat beside the package of face wipes and lotion, meant to combat the tiny smattering of bumps on his once smooth forehead. He was growing up, physically changing in many ways, but then maybe not so many after all.
Perhaps I need to slow time down myself and encourage the little boy who sneaks cupcakes. That joy I have not seen in so long, that I thought had disappeared with the beginning of adolescence, was right here beside me. I had just been too busy to notice. Some day this joy will move from cupcakes to his own phone, a job and perhaps a car, and then someday a girl. A girl that steals his heart and sparks joy that is loaded with laughter and glee and filled with butterflies. My wish for him is happiness and embracing each day and so I shall too.