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Raising a Boy

There was a whump from upstairs. A body tarzaning off a top bunk. Or a fan falling, as it were. From a top bunk it was never supposed to be on.

Only I learned it was the fan because my son, his bottom lip leading the way, found me in the living room and half-whispered, half-squeaked his apology. “I choosed poorly,” he said. He eyelashes flicked tears and  his head sagged another inch.

I listened to the poor choice and then asked that he scrape the fan into a pile that we could look at later.

Because it wasn’t about the fan.

But about my boy. My rough and tender boy. My boy who has inherited self-deprecation. My boy who does not need stern words, who crumbles at stern words. Who needs instead my dependable arms. And a piece of my shirt to wipe his snot.

My boy is the one confiding to his sister that he wants to run as fast as a cop.

And he’s the one waving for his gym teacher’s attention, only to say softly, “I love you, Miss Trinnelle.”

He’s the one with a boogered pointer finger. And the one sighing for the return of our grandmotherly next door neighbor. He’s the one with the stamina to yank weeds for an hour with his daddy. And the one pleading to help me bake.

Rough.

And tender.

This is my boy.

Rough-and-tender.

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