Today, Wolverine has left the world of kiddie land and has strutted bravely into the realm of teenager…thirteen years old! Does anything make you feel older than a child becoming a teenager?
Gary and I jokingly call Wolverine “Little Daddy” because, as the oldest, he has always been a helper, eager to pitch in and step up. Unfortunately, part of that is because too much responsibility has been shoveled onto him for years to conveniently ease the unwanted duties of others in his life. Being the oldest doesn’t make him a built-in babysitter and substitute parental figure, at least not in our household.
Wolverine’s determination to enter the adult world has left me sometimes laughing, sometimes sad, wishing he’d simply enjoy childhood while he can….wishing he would be left alone to enjoy childhood while he can. While the other kids play, Wolverine will pull a chair up to the kitchen table to join in the grown-ups’ conversation, adding his two cents whenever possible, occasionally turning to make sure his siblings are behaving themselves (lest they be subjected to his deliberately deepened voice, exaggerated strict glower, and authoritative tone).
Wolverine reached the landmark of being taller than me a long time ago and is still growing. It’s clear he is going to be very tall like his daddy. I hear a lot of shorty jokes, and as if to make sure I haven’t grown any, Wolverine likes to stand beside me, measure himself against me, and make sure he is still looking down at the top of my head. I warned him I may very well hit a massive growth spurt soon, but he doesn’t seem terribly concerned about that.
He is like a powerful, gentle grizzly bear that has no idea how strong it truly is, inside and out. He is deeply concerned about hurting other people’s feelings and avoiding conflict, and that has been exhaustively abused by others. He is more aware now of how it has been used against him for years, even when he wasn’t completely sure what was happening at the time, and he understandably feels shame and guilt. It angers me that his gentle heart and loving nature are twisted by the ugliness and selfishness of others; instead of appreciating who he is, they have only seen opportunity to use him like a tool. As he gets older, he will have to decide if he allows himself to be completely lost in the quest to please everyone, or if he will respect himself enough to take a stand.
I remember when Wolverine was small enough to sit in my lap, and I used to not be able to sit anywhere, even the floor, without Wolverine soon following and making himself comfy in my lap. Yesterday Wolverine jokingly sat on my lap, and we laughed because he is so much bigger than me now. I hugged him and discovered that his back is very ticklish. I will tuck that knowledge away for later use!
I’m glad the kids are home this week so we can celebrate Wolverine’s birthday together. I’m also relieved he is like me and doesn’t like chocolate! No sickeningly sweet, chocolate-overload cake to choke down this evening.
I am proud of Wolverine, extremely worried about him, and I love him immensely. He’s been expected to hoist a massive burden on his shoulders. He’s been forced into the role of star witness, has been interrogated, and has been tossed aside when not considered useful. It has taken its toll: he has scars and hang-ups and insecurities that go much deeper than the typical growing pains of a new teenager.
I wish for Wolverine, on his birthday and always, the strength to remain loving and true and gentle, no matter what is pushed onto him. And I wish for him to turn an honest eye onto himself and see what his father and I see: a brave, loving, gentle young man who deserves all the love in the world.