Thursday, March 28, 2019

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

When Jack turned 3 he became obsessed with superheroes. Without ever seeing a superhero movie or even a superhero cartoon, he was drawn like a magnet to any and all paraphernalia bearing a superhero logo. He clutched Superman water bottles to his chest at Target. He could not live without the Batman key chain at the gas station. He cried real tears for Justice League waffles at the grocery store.

He fastened his blankie into a cape until he became the owner of a real superhero cape and he quickly amassed a collection of superhero action figures, jammies, plates, cups, costumes, undies and the like, owing mostly to the fact that he has approximately 18 grandparents.

During Jack's third year he decided he wanted to dress like a superhero. He only wanted to dress like a superhero. Not just for Halloween or playtime, but also for errands or church or Christmas parties or nice restaurants or family pictures. Thank goodness we did not have a funeral to attend that year.

Jack's super hero outfits were very well thought out. He did not simply throw on a cape and call it a day, oh no. He insisted on wearing his superhero pajamas - preferably Batman or Superman - with the coordinating underwear pulled on OVER TOP OF the pants because obviously superheroes wear their underwear on the outside of their outfits. He then generally accessorized with capes, masks, belts and rubber rain boots to top it all off.

It chagrined me to no end that his closet resembled an untouched rack at Gap Kids while he ran around in grimy pajamas with holey underwear on top.

At first I begged. I threatened. I bribed. I pleaded with him to wear a cute little polo shirt or darling button-up. Finally we settled on the rule that he could not wear superhero outfits to school or church, but besides that we became accustomed to seeing Spiderman at the dinner table or Green Lantern running through the backyard, which is why I was rather surprised one day when he walked downstairs wearing long pants and a long-sleeved blue button-up with his hair neatly slicked back like a tiny professor on his way to a lecture.

I had no time to inquire about his choice of outfit that morning however, because I was 8 months pregnant, running late to an OB appointment and the sitter had not shown up. Plan B was to throw Jack and one-year-old Henry into the car to accompany my on my appointment, hooray!

Turns out this was the perfect appointment on which to bring my 3 and 1-year-old because this was the appointment in which the nurse needed to perform a "fetal non-stress test." I am still unsure as to the purpose of this test, but I do clearly remember it involved me supine in a reclined chair with several monitors strapped to my belly while the nurse gave explicit instructions to "stay as still as possible for 30 minutes or we will have to start the whole test over!"

The nurse exited the room as I lie incapacitated and the look that spread across my toddlers' faces can only be described as sheer delight. Henry immediately reached for a magazine and began meticulously ripping it to shreds page by page. Jack took a running leap for the rolling stool, caught it with his belly and crashed headfirst into the opposite wall. They were having the time of their lives.

After spinning, zooming and performing any other stunt he could think of with the rolling stool Jack announced that HE NEEDED TO GO POTTY RIGHT NOW I CAN'T HOLD IT I HAVE TO GO NOW! At this point the test was almost halfway through, the room resembled an unkempt confetti factory and I would have rather taken a dozen glucose tests than risk moving and having to repeat this process all over again. In desperation I pointed to the single-stall restroom across the hall, "Ok, there is the potty. Do you think you can go all by yourself?" He nodded. "Just don't touch anything!" I shouted as he marched his little sharply-dressed self out the door.

A few minutes went by and Jack did not return. Several more minutes passed and I began to panic with the thought of all the things that a little boy might get into when left to himself in a gynecologist's bathroom. Visions of rubber gloves and overturned urine samples and mountains of unwrapped feminine products filled my head.

When the nurse finally returned to unplug me, I frantically grabbed Henry, mumbled an apology for the sea of crumpled magazine pages she was left wading in and rushed to the bathroom.

I flung open the door to find my 3-year-old, standing very proudly, hands-on-hips, in full Superman regalia.

"What??...How??...When??" I stammered. I noticed his khaki pants and button-up shirt discarded in a pile on the floor.

"Jack, were you hiding your Superman outfit UNDER your regular clothes??"

"No, Mommy," he answered earnestly, "I was being Clark Kent."

Please note: This is the exact photo I took of my child upon returning home from the doctor's office.

To this day I'll never know how I failed to notice my child smuggling a red cape and chunky plastic belt under his clothing to the OBGYN.


Every year, since he was 3, a superhero costume of some type has topped Jack's birthday list. When he was 4 he requested the Flash. We threw a Ninja Turtles birthday party the year he turned 5. He asked for a Wolverine costume when he was 6 and by the time he turned 7 he was back to Batman again ("but this time Batman with muscles already in the costume!").

But something shifted between year 7 and 8. It was gradual, practically imperceptible day-by-day. The tiny super hero figures in their basket were moved from the shelf to the closet to make room for football cards and baseball gloves. I saw his brawny Batman costume less and less. He began to wear his Baltimore Orioles jersey more and more. He began flipping on ESPN as soon as he woke up so he could "check the scores from last night." There was a game last night? How is there always a game? How does he know about this game? How, at 7 years old, does he suddenly know more about sports than I have learned in my entire life??

I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised when his 8-year-old birthday wish list was sadly devoid of any superhero gear whatsoever. In fact, all he really wanted to do was go to a Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball game. His grandparents ended up taking him as a birthday treat and the night they picked just happened to be, ironically, super hero night.

"How fun is that, Jack? Which costume are you going to wear for Superhero Night at the baseball game?"

He looked at me utterly horrified. "Ugh, no, Mommy, superheroes are for babies."

And there it was. Suddenly, my little boy who refused to take off his superhero costume now refused to put one on.

It's at this point in the post I should bemoan the passing of time. It would be a perfect spot to joke that these moments fly past "faster than a speeding bullet!",  but the truth is that I started writing this post almost two years ago when Jack turned 8. He'll be 10 this summer. It is one of many posts filed away in an unpublished archive and I can't remember where I was going with it.

I recently received a notification saying my domain name was set to expire so I could either pay a small fee to keep it or lose this small piece of myself to the invisible expanse of the interwebs. Of course I couldn't let that happen. North Carolinians might be lost without my brilliant review of the Polar Express Train.

I began this blog when Jack was 3 and I was a young mom stuck at home for long stretches of time, deeply in love with my children, but desperately needing to connect with other souls who were sharing my experiences.

He is no longer that 3-year-old. I am no longer that mom.

He gradually dropped his obsession for all things super-human and I steadily began to reenter the world of people who slept through the night. Then School happened. And field trips and playdates and little league and ballet and date nights and girls' nights and life.

And I realized a whole year had gone by without me sitting down to write a blog post. My kids got older and grew from adorable toddlers into actual people and it began to feel invasive to share their stories so freely. Instead I tried writing about a hungry ghost, but it just wasn't the same. 

When Jack turned 8 I sadly thought that his Superhero days were behind us.

But every now and then I'll catch him: digging the muscled Playskool heroes out of the closet, quoting The Dark Knight, reenacting a scene from the latest Marvel movie with his brother. (Just don't tell him I told you.)

In many ways he is still that 3-year-old. And I am still that mom.

I still need connection and a creative outlet, although this blog is not those things for me anymore.

I would love to write in a more regular capacity again one day, whatever that might look like, but currently my writing is limited to lunchbox notes and Instagram captions. I don't like leaving things undone, so I guess you could consider this my official farewell blogpost, even though this site has essentially been left unattended since 2016.

Thank you to all of you who read my stories and shared yours with me.

I am forever grateful for this perfectly messy space.

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