I watched my son graduate to "Little Boy" today.
I know, it's been coming on for a while. There have been signs. But today, I watched it happen. My brain saw a different person, a public persona, an independent kid running around on his own turf, making friends and owning his space.
Last Wednesday, we went to Rutland, Vermont to get the van serviced, and to check out Head Over Heels Gymnastics. While we were at the Toyota dealer, Jay was not too kind to the folks in the waiting room. An elderly woman tried to help him up when he tripped. He pointed and screeched like a transformed alien from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." A man tried to sit down in a chair, and Jay jumped at him and screamed "MINE!" He ran in circles, spilled toys everywhere, refused to clean up, and climbed onto (and jumped off of) every raised surface in the show room. For now, at least, he still seems to get the "Cute Toddler" waiver. Everyone was WAY too kind and patient. His Blue-Eyes-And-Dimple hall pass is about to expire.
After the service department was finished, we still had to wait while Laura over-chatted with the sales person who wanted us to trade our 16-month-old van for a brand new model. I let Jay get a little louder and even more animated, and our keys and van quickly appeared with a smile and a "We parked it right out front for you."
From there we went to Friendly's for a quick breakfast before tumbling class. He plowed through two pancakes and an egg before I ate half that much. I found myself hoping he would keep it all down once he started bouncing and rolling.
He did great in his class. He barely sat down (for stretching and instructions), but he was in a new environment and needed to explore. Miss Candace, the instructor, was great. We were really impressed. She knows what to expect from toddlers, how to teach them, when to engage and when to allow exploration, and simply has the "right" energy for this age group. As the hour went on, Jay picked up more and more cues about what was expected. He waited his turn. He listened for instructions. We had hoped he would learn something about safe landings, and Miss Candace did not disappoint. She spent time with him showing him how to "stick" when he landed.
He had a blast. And, it was not lost on him that he was surrounded by pretty girls.
Today we went back for open gym. Jay already knew the rules, and went off on his own as soon as he got his shoes off. He jumped onto things, off of things, bounced on pads and mats; when he thought no one was watching he jumped off of a block onto the padded floor, landed in a crouch, and said to himself, "STICK."
When he needed a break, he would walk down to the other end of the gym where they have some climbing structures and slides. He played, or relaxed at a picnic table, and went back out to the floor. It was fun, albeit bittersweet, to see him in such control of himself. He still has to learn some rules, but he came a long way this week.
We left the gym, and headed to Glens Falls for a birthday party. He napped for about an hour on the drive there. The party was at Party Palace, a "bouncy house" and arcade emporium in the Aviation Mall. Again, Jay was in his element. He moved largely independently, with Laura following along as best she could. I watched from a centrally located seat as he made choices, talked with his friends, and simply made a fun day for himself. He even rolled out of one of the bouncy houses, onto his feet, and whispered "stick!"
I have to admit to one bit of derelict parenting. When the food came, he had no idea how to manage a slice of pizza. We have always cut it into pieces for him. The poor guy sat there with pizza on his plate, trying to watch the other kids for a clue, but in the end he looked over to me for guidance. Laura tore the slice into pieces for him. I was kind of hoping she would help him to unlock the mystery, but that can wait for another day.
It was just a really different day for me. I saw a boy running around, instead of my toddler. I saw independent decision making, some of which made me quite proud (like when his best friend ran off in a tantrum, and Jay stayed close by instead of running with him). He still had a thuggish moment with a small boy (he seems to sense non-assertive boys and gets mean toward them- UGH), and the end-of-the-party meltdown wasn't pretty. On the whole, though, this is a day that will "stick" with me. Time after time he showed me that he is piecing together lessons from many different experiences, and that he's ready to start owning more of his world. It's a good thing. His Cute Toddler waiver is just about used up.