flashback friday: the back nine

It may be mid-March, but I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now and doggoneit, I’ve got to just get it out there. It’s been burning a hole in my pocket. Or something like that.

Last month, Connor turned nine. NINE. And while I realize that means I was 21 when I had him, that’s not for you to worry about. My mom friends were talking about all of our babies turning nine and one mentioned the concept of ‘the back nine’. I was like, ‘wait. we are not golfing.’ And then I thought about it (and thought about it) and then I was all, ‘ohhhhh i get it. our babies are nine. they’ve already gotten through the front and now … now it’s time for the back.’ And then I sobbed.

I mean, I realize that 18 is quite a ways down the proverbial road of parenthood but with as quickly as these first nine years have passed, it definitely doesn’t feel like it. And given Connor already has shifted his career path from teaching to one focused on marine biology at the University of Oregon (go … ducks?), I guess we need to start considering that the boy; well, the boy is growing up.

His birthday was on Valentine’s Day just like it is every other year making it super easy to remember and super easy to find candy with which to celebrate. It was an absolutely awful day. His basketball camp was canceled just as I was walking out the door because the snow was blowing and it was ridiculously cold. So, thankfully, he got to come over and we hung out and played cards and then that evening ventured out for dinner at none other than Red Robin. Before you say, ‘Yumm …’, I’m over it. But he loves it and birthday boys get to choose so there ya go.

It’s been an eventful year for Connor. He’s grown immensely and I think primarily in his willingness to serve. I attribute much of that to the car wreck because he was forced to help mom carry things. Mom is not very adept at asking for help so when she was one arm short, it sort of forced the issue. And he rose to the challenge like a champ. And no, mom doesn’t always speak in the third person, just when mom feels like it.

That’s part of the praise he’s received this year at school. He loves to help out his classmates who need a hand. And I love that. I love that he’s less concerned with what someone looks like or acts like; it’s that he knows they need help and he’s willing to take the extra step to assist. Mrs. V. was just sharing how CJ helped another student get his shoes tied. I laughed because it’s not that often he ties his own. But I still appreciated his gesture.

Connor also became wholly obsessed with football and sharks in this past year. The football piece was almost as a result of peer pressure (which I am not a fan of, for the record), but as soon as he was able to show his friends that he could hang, he was accepted into the crew and now? He’s decided his fall sport will be football. Hold while mom cries in a corner. The good news is he still loves soccer and plans to play in the spring. Look at him already acting like an adult and evaluating his alternatives and deciding accordingly (and like a typical man choosing ALL).

He also loves the sharks and that’s so fun. He draws sharks. He cuts out sharks. He wants to be a shark. He celebrates with sharks on Valentine’s Day. And as a result of his (mild) obsession, we took a trip to Shedd Aquarium on New Year’s Eve and he spent 20 minutes just staring at the sharks. He also enjoyed educating the staff person on the many facets of sharks that she was already likely aware of. He could talk for days about them. He has also expressed concern that his friends think he’s weird for liking sharks so much. I instruct him (and will continue to) not to worry about that. Clearly, God has laid something about sharks on his heart so while he’s feeling it, I encourage him just to go with it. And besides, I’m okay with traveling to island nations to see him hang out with Jaws and his buddies (so long as he’s safe and in a cage and not in any real danger).

I wanted to write more but then I started digging through photos and those always tell the story a bit better than I can. I look at this child. My NINE-year-old child and I see a boy who’s happy. I see a young man who knows how to make any room, place, field, etc. just a bit brighter. His gleaming smile, his silly expressions, his quick hugs. He’s truly the epitome of my heart walking outside of my own body and I couldn’t be more grateful for having a part of his world for the first nine. Now, if only we can have a couple longer holes on the back nine. I’m not quite prepared for this round to go by as quickly as the first.

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