Ryan

By Jennifer Deweese
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Mother and son playing in fieldI
His breath comes in long, slow waves, in and out. His small chest lowers with each expulsion of air. His sleep is deep and restful, the sleep of one who has had a day of hard, satisfying work. His Mickey Mouse pajamas sport a new hole, exposing his curled little toes.

I reach down and stroke his silky, fine hair, hair that has been colored by the day’s sun to a soft hue of sandstone. I notice the curve of his lips, smooth and flawless. It’s not quite a smile that I detect, but more of a smirk, the secretive smirk of someone who knows something you have yet to figure out. It’s the smirk of my father on Christmas morning.

It is my job as his mother, qualified or not, to protect this beautiful rambunctious toddler, and to teach him about life. I have taught him that “hot” hurts, cars give “boo-boos” that even Mommy can’t fix, and that “No” is not necessarily an appropriate answer for everything. I have promised him that monsters absolutely do not live under his bed, and I have promised him that I will love him forever.

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We bundle up in our who-gives-a damn-clothes and go outside to explore the world. The world, which had become commonplace for me, is now given to a whole new wealth of insight, looking at it now as I do through the eyes of my child. Exploring the wondrous world with him, climbing great rock mountains, battling imaginary dragons, running from real-life bees, hunting for hidden treasures, stubbing our toes, scraping our knees, laughing and crying together, learning and relearning the essentials to life.

With my son as my guide, I learn many things. I learn that a hug really can make things better, and that it’s okay to ask for help. People need each other, and touch is essential to life. I learn that earthworms can be good pets and to never, never, under any circumstances let one go after promising to hold it in your hand. Promises are sacred; don’t break them.

I learn that life is not about going to work, paying taxes, and driving nice cars. Life is about playing hard, laughing hard, and being kind to others. Life is about snuggling up with a good book and having someone you love to share it with. Life is not about the past or future. Life is the present. Enjoy and savor each and every moment of each and every day. I learn that being grown up is not the same as being old. Old is a state of mind for the weary. I learn there is adventure and lessons to be learned anywhere you may go, if you look at life through the eyes of a child.

I am learning that the more I try to teach Ryan about life, the more he is teaching me. The teacher, the student, are one and the same.

Sleep tight, my son. Tomorrow has much to offer.

Jennifer Deweese is the mother of Ryan (now 16), Steven (12), and Chelsea (10). She writes, “We live together with their father in Pennsylvania. Although I have had many experiences in my life, mothering these children has taught me more than any college course. When not tending to my clan, I pursue my first love, writing.”