It was evening and I was cycling boys through the bath. Raphael had just gotten out of the tub and was in the process of meditating next to his jammies. It takes longer for that boy to get dressed than for the process of erosion to create major land forms, I swear. Max was shucking his clothing (everywhere) and heading for the bath, when Tre came stomping in through the garage.
“MAX! Come out here!” he bellowed.
“He’s in the bath,” I replied, “what do you need?”
He gestured at a small knot of kids standing in the street in front of our house.
“There’s a girl out there who doesn’t believe I’m ten. I want Max to come tell her I am.”
“Want me to tell her?”
He looked at me with alarm.
“NO! I mean, that’s ok.” He ran back out the front, slamming the screen door (again). I stood to the side of the door, where I couldn’t be seen, and watched.
Tre is short. He is, after all, my son. I am almost 5’2”. His biological dad is 5’7” – and he’s the tallest person in his family. Tre falls in the 5th to 10th percentile on those brutal height charts. He always has, and I suspect he always will. And that’s ok, because there are lots of wonderful people down here, close to the ground. There’s plenty of oxygen where we are, you know. If the room is filling with smoke.
Ok, so I’m anxious for him. I don’t want him to hurt, ever. And I suspect this is going to be one of those things, the facts of his life that he smacks up against.
I stood there, looking out through the crack between the door and the frame. Silly me, offering to go talk to actual kids around him. He’d rather they think he’s younger than ten than to know he has a mother. He walked up to the group, swaggered with the tough-kid strut he’s taken on recently. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I saw the girls laugh and turn away.
I remember how mean we can be.
There was another boy in the group, and I saw him and Tre share a shrug. They turned and walked off in the other direction. What can I do, I thought, to help here? How can I make this easier? What can I say?
There’s nothing I can do. I watched Tre saunter through the late afternoon stripes of sun and shade. I couldn’t tell if it bothered him or not, and I knew he wouldn’t tell me if it did. He seems to have handled those girls fine anyhow. I sighed and leaned against the wall. I know I have to let him figure out this stuff on his own, but the truth is he’s not really on his own. I’m still here, quietly watching, anticipating his hurt.
I just can’t do anything to help.