Little Man

As I sit down to write this post, nostalgia drifts down and settles on my heart. I am thinking about my kids getting older. How fast it has gone. How inexpressibly difficult, phenomenal and utterly exhausting raising a family is. My mind wanders back to my first post of 2015 where I tell a story of my middle child.  My first born son.

WARNING!!! This post is a novel…..

When he was eight Quin came running to me with so much enthusiasm, “Mom, I can’t wait for 2015!”  It caught me off guard, I was so startled I didn’t even think of doing the math to figure out why, so I queried. “I can drive!” he exclaimed almost bursting with the thought of it.  His little round face exuded so much anticipation and sheer impatience. I didn’t even know how to respond.

This story captures the heart of my first born son.  Always in a hurry to grow up! That is why his nick name was “little man”. As his mother, I have always gently chided him to enjoy the age he was, or the space of life he was experiencing. It is fleeting. It is gone all too quickly. It is your one chance. Don’t waste it dreaming and longing for another time.

As I look back, I see that he has always been able to hold the two in perfect tension. He lives life to the full while he dreams of what is coming. My adventuresome little man.

As I carried Quin, I had time to prepare for the kind of child that was coming.  From the start his strength, activity and movement were astonishing.  I could feel him football roll inside of me and I would pray like mad that his cord wouldn’t tie up.  He winded me on more than one occasion with the force of his kicks. He was exhausting inside the womb and I was sure he would be on the outside too. I was so excited to meet this little ball of energy. In my heart, I knew he was a boy.  We couldn’t even come up with a girl’s name.

Quin arrived right on time.  We skipped the first stage of labor and headed into strong, furious contractions 3-5 minutes apart. I was toxic again and for safety the doctors ordered an epidural. We laughed our way through his delivery and in a short space of four hours, there he was.  He came out holding his own head up, gnawing on his hands with hunger and scowling fiercely. In fact he must have been scowling for a long time because he had permanent wrinkle marks between his little eyebrows. He nursed while I tried to gently worry away the scowl marks.  Once he finished, he was still not satisfied and began gnawing on his little fists again, he needed a bottle. He could not wait for my milk to come in. He was ravenous and downed that milk in quick order. The nurse said it didn’t mean anything.  She was wrong! So much about the way he arrived was predictive of his nature.

Quin ate every two hours for about 12 weeks.Night and day. I was exhausted and he was thriving. He needed very little sleep. Twenty to forty minute naps were all he ever took. One nap in the morning one in the afternoon…maybe.The doctor told us to give him solids at 4 months and by five months I gave up nursing and bottle fed him. I was too tired to produce what he needed and he was already appreciating solid food. At six months old he was so offended that his food was different than ours at Thanksgiving dinner, he grunted like a little cave man until we cleaned off a thigh bone and let him chew on it.  Delighted, he gnawed enthusiastically. Quin has always needed regular meals and could out eat the average man by the time he was two and a half.  There is a very small window in which to catch his hunger. If it is missed he can’t think, he grunts like a cave man and becomes irrational and grumpy. Grumpy is a nice way to put it. The kid is a calorie burning machine and for the first 10 years of his life his average body temp was a degree or more warmer than the rest of us. When people have him over I try to explain his caloric requirements. I get nods of “yeah, yeah, we have teenage boys too.”  Inevitably I get a remark of “Wow, how much are you spending on groceries anyways???!”  We actually feed him a meal before we go to friends for dinner just so he doesn’t clean out their kitchen.
Quin was frustrated until he could walk. He took his first steps before he was eight months old and two weeks later he was running every where. His little legs looked like egg beaters. Along with the running came big smiles. He was so pleased with his new found freedom. Looking back over videos of him two things stand out,  he is always moving fast and always smiling. I just had a young couple trying to explain to me how busy their kids are, like I wouldn’t understand. I just nodded and smiled. It was a full time job keeping up to Quin and keeping him alive. We used to joke about making him live with a hockey helmet and that it would be a miracle if we could keep him alive until he was 5! I would play “Go, Go, Go, Stop!!!” to teach him to stop when I needed him to.  That way he wouldn’t dart out into traffic. If Quin got tired, he would just increase his speed. He was determined to do everything the way big people did. Including stairs, which at eight months old, was actually not physically possible. Every night we would get ready for bed and there would be new bruises. Big, bad, ugly bruises. I would think back, I couldn’t remember any tears. Just a lot of action. He would invent new ways to use playground equipment, always very aware of his limits. I would get nasty looks from other mothers and ignore them. Keeping my eye on my son. The only time he was still was waking up from a nap. He did this slowly and would just melt into me. Quiet still moments when he would snuggle in like that were precious.

Quin loves riding bike. Just before he turned three he asked his Dad to take off his training wheels. I wouldn’t let it happen. Eventually Quin stopped riding. One day as Craig was working on the truck, Quin asked him again. Craig took off the trainers. Craig came into the house where I was doing dishes, explained what happened and sadly said ” I didn’t even get to hold the seat and run alongside of him, he just rode off!!”  I ran out to see and there was Quin, smiling with joy riding around on two wheels like that was how he had always done it. At five, he wanted a jump. That was good for a day. Then he needed a bigger jump. Again Craig said no and Quin stopped riding.  Finally Craig gave in,  Quin rode with pleasure. He took as much air as he could and I watched close by. Then it happened. He took too much air and lost control. He landed with style, right on his face. It was the first time I remember him actually crying in pain. I carried him home in my arms, dragging the bike along. I was thanking God that my child felt pain and begging that it would mean something to him. His little brother refuses to ride with him. Simply put in his own words ” I don’t want to watch Quin die.”

Quin adored his sister and always greeted her with a big smile, wildly kicking his arms and legs. She was his main motivation for getting mobile and walking. When Connor came along, Quin was a gentle, benevolent brother. Loving and caring right from the start. Connor, protective of his time alone with  me, would sometimes hit Quin when he approached. Quin would just smile and walk away. Off he would go, busy and happy. He was only 15 months old when Connor came along. There is a lot that is a blur. The first eight weeks we had a major disaster each week and I would call Craig in a panic. I was often unable to clean the mess and keep all three children safe. I would try my best to contain Quin and was only rarely successful.  I would sit down to nurse Connor and pray that Quin would stay alive.
Quin is our true extrovert. Thank goodness he has two siblings, between the two of them and me there was usually someone to play with. Quin is very collaborative  Seeing how Sydney loved volleyball, Quin took it up.  He wanted to share it with her.  As soon as Connor started cello, Quin wanted to start playing music with him. He loved it when he and Sydney were in guitar lessons together. Quin loves team sport and is a faithful, hard working team mate. He views himself realistically and knows what strengths and weaknesses he brings to the team. Quin is quick to see the strengths of others and tries to build up every team he is a part of. He is loyal to the end, protective of everyone who he cares for and loves completely and fiercely.

Quin’s nick name is “little man” for a reason. He has always seemed older and more capable than his age.  At four he was a ring bearer. He had been told to watch the rings carefully and did just that. Right before he and Sydney were to head down the isle, one of the rings rolled away.  He planted himself firmly while she tried to tug him along. He kept his eyes on where the ring landed, unmovable until one of the ushers finally figured out what had happened. The usher retrieved the ring and tied it in place again. Being responsible and seeming so capable, sometimes people would give him more than his years and experience could handle. These failures weighed heavy on his little heart though in reality, they were not his failures to carry.  We have tried to guard him from this. He takes responsibility seriously and works hard to come through!

Quin is very bright, only he tries to pretend he is not so that expectations stay reasonable and easily achievable.  He gets good marks with no extra effort and I was stunned this year when his grades jumped almost 10%. I was confused because this happened without any extra, visible effort. When I asked Quin about it, he just casually said “Grades count in grade 10 Mom.” You can’t even imagine my reaction! How can you scold a kid who is achieving yet showing no effort?!

In grade eight, Quin took up guitar. I paid for six lessons and the rest he has learned himself.  It is so incredible to see him playing with the band on Sunday’s. My mind would spin wondering how he had mastered and figured out so much all on his own. Since he loves to collaborate, I asked him to teach me last summer. He wanted to teach me a song that required a capo. I explained that I wanted to learn why and how a capo worked and the theory behind it before I used it.  I explained that I just didn’t have the time at the moment. He came back 10 minutes later with a huge theory based explanation that honestly, I was not capable of grasping in my multitasking state.”Did you google that?” I asked. “No, I just figured it out. I want you to learn this song Mom!!”  There are no words for what I was feeling in that moment. Without the challenge of sport and music Quin would die of boredom. School has failed to intrigue him as of yet. I cannot wait until it does. He has a keen and active mind that requires stimulation and challenge.  The work ethic he has demonstrated in pursuit of music and sport is amazing and makes us very proud. Lately, he has asked Grandma Tess to teach him piano and is speeding along. We are proud and amazed at the hours and effort he devotes to it.
Quin does everything he loves with all of his heart. He holds nothing back. This leaves him vulnerable and open to hurt. As a mother this is scary because I want to protect him and I can’t. What if all of him isn’t enough? For all his rough and tough, he has an enormously tender heart and is easier to wound than one thinks. This often shocks people because things they expect to bounce off of him can prick deeply.  Sometimes because he is so strong, people don’t realize how tenderhearted he is. It is sometimes so confusing for him because he is a compassionate, thoughtful person who would never purposefully hurt someone. He has a deep understanding of right and wrong.  Over the years has often defended those who need defending. He always chooses to believe the best about others and has amazed me at his willingness to forgive and give second chances.  He is chivalrous, considerate and generous. There are no adequate words for the strength of his heart.

Quin is often reserved until you get to know him. You have to earn his respect and trust for him to be comfortable with you. His Elementary school teachers were always excited at our January Parent/ Teacher interviews. “He is finally talking to me!” they would exclaim with excitement. His teachers have always loved him! He has one that has nicknamed him “Optimus Reim” and I think that is so perfect on so many levels!! If you get to see his humor, his twinkle and quick wit, you know you have made the cut.  Tread carefully, you do not know the observation that has gone on to earn this right. Handle it carefully, you wouldn’t want to lose it! Quin keeps us in stitches with his sense of humor. He can be so lighthearted, his laughter and joking truly are qualities our family adores about him. Quin also has a serious side. He is a deep thinker often stumping me with difficult and profound questions. He has trouble turning his mind off sometimes. It is the perfect blend of serious and fun and we all enjoy these qualities immensely.

When Quin started grade one, he had to do after school reading, the only thing he would read was the Bible.  There we would sit after school reading through the book of Mark.  By grade four he took his Bible to school for quiet reading time. There he sat, reading through the book of Isaiah much to his teachers astonishment!  She was amazed and delighted saying, “Now there is a kid who isn’t going to be led by others!”   Quin has been given the gift of faith. It is strong, unwavering and deep. He has complete trust in God when it comes down to brass tacks. This is an amazing gift and is truly such a strength in him. There have been times when he has been moved to speak, the truth that comes forth, the power and confidence he says it with and the emotion that hovers in his voice have moved Craig and I deeply. It is something to behold.

Quin has an incredible will. Good luck motivating him if he has decided not to do something and good luck coming up with a consequence that equates to what his will has determined it wants. One year Craig built the kids an amazing tree fort. We decided to add a rope ladder they would have to learn to shimmy up. We actually tried to make it a challenge. Quin was six. Every few minutes he would come in from outside with his magnificent scowl ( the one he was born with) and he would gripe at me about that rope. I would smile at him and say “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun. When you get mad enough, you will do it!” Well, about twenty minutes later he came in triumphant. He had conquered the rope ladder and was giddy with pleasure at his victory.

Worries about work ethic evaporated early on. He shoveled gravel with us for 6 hours one day that same spring. He wanted to be helpful, responsible and work with us.  The other two children did more than their share and we tried to send them off to play. Quin refused to go play. He worked his little heart out with us so I could have another flower bed. I am convinced that the sheer force of his will is going to help create any opportunity he desires.

We have seen Quin in a few different situations this year that have revealed parts of his heart that we have not seen tested until now. He has shown himself to be teachable and desiring what is right. He has shown that honoring others whether a peer or someone of authority is important to him. He has shown himself to have integrity, strength, gentle leadership and an incredible capacity to do what is right. He has shown himself honorable and true. He has made good choices in tricky situations and we have been so proud of who he has shown himself to be. He is a young man of incredible character, depth and  quality. Craig and I are so proud of who he is and who he is becoming. I am privileged to be this remarkable young man’s mother.

Quin, here you stand on the edge of manhood. You are turning 16 soon. I know if I was to release you to full independence already you would make great choices and treat the responsibility with consideration. You are already a worthy young man.There is already so much I can trust you with. Be patient. Just give me two more years. Two short years. Years that are much too short. Two more years to guide you and prepare you. Two more years to enjoy you everyday and enjoy the pleasure of your company. Two more years to parent actively. Give me time to work out how to let you go, I am not ready yet. I probably wont be ready then. But trust me, I will release you when the time comes. I would never dare to hold you back. I am far too excited to see what you will do. In some ways, I cannot wait to watch and see who you will become. There is too much adventure in what the future holds, I cannot and would not restrain you. I do not want to miss the sheer delight of cheering you on. Child, my heart is bursting with pride, joy and love for you. You are remarkable young man. And for two more years, two short years, you will remain my little man!!! After that you will be an adult. You will still be our son, you will always be our son. But when you are fully grown you will no longer be my little man, you will be God’s man.

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