This week the boys have been doing VBS at a nearby church. Tre is so very old and mature that he is a helper this year, instead of one of the rabble. His job is to help with snacks. On the ride home, he likes to use his newfound power to tattle on his brothers.
“Max came in to snack and he didn’t want what we were having, so he tried to tell me he’s allergic to peanuts, so he could get the fruit snacks. I told him, ‘Max, I KNOW you’re not allergic to peanuts,’ and he just looked at me and said, ‘Who are you?’”
In the back seat, Max snickered in appreciation of his own smart mouth. I suppressed a grin and said mildly,
“Max, if you don’t like what they’re offering for snack, don’t eat it. But you can’t take the snacks that aren’t for you. So don’t pester Tre about it.” Max shrugged, which I took as an indication of intent to comply.
“And then Raphael came in,” Tre continued, “and he kept HUGGING me even though I TOLD him to stop because I was trying to WORK.”
Raphael looked up from his attempts to fold his shirt hem over his head.
“What?” he bellowed. “I was just trying to LOVE MY BROTHER and besides, Tyler HIT ME, because he’s MEAN, and I’m going to punch him in his nose. Can we go out for lunch?”
I opened my mouth, then paused. Where to begin? How to answer all that?
“No, we can’t go out for lunch.”
It seems like more of the same, the endless chatter and friction of three boys. But if I watch closely, there are significant changes. Tre, with a world-weary chuckle, tells me the story of a little boy who tries every day to convince him to give him the fruit snacks.
“’I’m ALLERGIC,’ he tells me, and I tell him ‘no, I can see right there on your name tag that you’re NOT allergic, so you can’t have the fruit snacks.’ But he won’t give up. Every day it’s the same thing. Today, when he was leaving, he came and told me, ‘maybe tomorrow I’ll be allergic.’”
Together we laugh about the hopeful little boy. I glance at my firstborn in the rearview mirror and realize again how much he’s grown. He was with me when I collected Raphael out of his class. Raphael’s teacher was startled to see Tre tousle Raphael’s hair.
“Oh,” she said to me, “is HE your son too?” I nodded, while straining to catch Max as he ran circles around us. “I didn’t realize he was your son too. He’s such a great kid. Very responsible.”
I thanked her and finally snagged Max by the elbow and headed out the door.
As we headed home and I glanced back at Tre, I realized how true that is. He IS a great kid.
But then again, they’re all great kids. But Tre is crossing a line, growing up into something more.
He glanced up and saw me looking.
“Hey, CAN we go out to eat?”
Thankfully, he’s not there just yet.