From the moment, I knew « it’s a boy, » he filled my life with joy and trepidation. Ten days later, the boy born on the go acquired his first passport. He made his first trans Atlantic trip as a 1 month old. He climbed out of his crib as at 8 months, walked at 9, kicked a ball at 10. As a hyper active, never-nap toddler he banged off the walls of our tiny Parisian apartment.
Insisting on doing everything himself, calamity followed in his wake. While trying to « help » me clean house, he broke the reclining chair, the remote control and the vacuum cleaner. His Aunt Karen insisted, « Send Nic over to help me tidy up. We need a new vacuum too. »
One Christmas, overjoyed to see his Aunt Sue, he gave her a flying, head-butt hug and broke her nose !
As a five-year-old, his body was so strong, we called him Bam Bam, yet his heart was as tender as a poem. When we moved to Switzerland, he told us, « Les nuages font un calin a la montagne. » (The clouds are hugging the mountains.) At age seven, perceptive, beyond his years, he lamented, « Mom, we’re growing up too fast. In five more years, Nathalie won’t live here anymore. »
As a kamikaze kid, he slit open his palm at age two, split his head at four, shattered his right ankle at fifteen. Each time the doctor stitched him up, I prayed, « Please keep my boy in one piece. »
The only time he sat still was when I read him storybooks. A friend once told me, « Nicolas is too cute for his britches. » He was. He dumped cereal or yogurt on the floor, then insisted, « Me clean ! » and made a bigger mess. But I could never stay mad. When he looked up at me with a mischievous grin, his turquoise eyes twinkling, all I could do was sigh and love him a little more.
I taught him to speak English, to drive the baseline and to write essays; he taught me patience. In the push- pull, anguish-awe of parenthood, I wondered whether I was saying too much or too little.
From his first footsteps, to first jump shot, to first Swiss national championship, in my role as teacher, coach, mom, I applauded each milestone. Whether he was skiing down the slopes of the Swiss Alps, or wake-boarding the waters of Summit Lake, I admired his balance and agility.
With his strong sense of injustice, he intervened when children picked on smaller boys. He gave up open shots to pass off to teammates who never scored. He helped classmates write French essays and rework math problems.
Due to conflict with an uncomprehending teacher and unruly class, we took him out of French public school when he was four-years-old. Yet his love of learning remained intact. At university, he pursues a teaching degree following in the footsteps of his mom, aunts, grandparents and great grandparents. Though teaching these days is a tough sale due to educational cutbacks and job shortages, he signed on to help out underprivileged children in the St. Paul school district and understands the attention problems of our cyber generation kids.
He has been a dedicated teammate, loyal friend, fun loving cousin, adored little brother and cherished son, admired for his witty sense of humor and courage to stand up for his convictions.
In today’s society, we honor boys for toughness, yet the world needs more tenderhearted men. Raising a son has been a wild ride, but I treasured every moment of the journey.
Though I will never again be on center stage of his life – bandaging skinned knees, reading nursery rhymes, or chauffeuring to activities – I will beam from the shadows back stage, as I watch my son pay it forward as a young man.