This was the first year that you weren’t nervous to start a new school year. I watched you walk across the grass with a swagger you didn’t have before, tossing the thick mop of hair out of your eyes, shoving your hands down deep in your pockets. You were anxious to leave me behind and catch up with your friends, I could tell — but it didn’t hurt my feelings. I’m proud of your courage. I think it will serve you well.
Those gangly arms, the same ones that used to be pudgy and could barely reach around my body, now loop around my waist with ease. In the mornings, your voice is gravely and low. “Hey Mom,” you always say, rubbing the sleep from your long eyelashes.
Your voice sounds like a big kid’s, but the way you stretch your arms when you first wake up is exactly the same as it was when you were a newborn. I wonder when you stopped calling me Mommy.
Fourth grade is the year that teachers start asking the kids to wear deodorant. You’re too young for deodorant — aren’t you? You’re the youngest in the class, but you asked me if I would buy some for you to put in your backpack, which of course I did without hesitation. No mother wants her son to be the one who smells.
Fourth grade is the last year that elementary school children seem small. I hope I’ve armed you with the right information. You know how babies are made. You know that it’s never okay to touch a girl without asking her permission and that you are only allowed to hit or push someone if it is in self-defense. We’ve also talked extensively about how it’s okay to walk away from a fight; in fact, I would prefer it.
You understand that there is never, ever a good reason to talk about anyone else’s body. Ever. Boys used to torment me mercilessly at school about my body, and I’m making it my mission to raise sons who are either too polite or too afraid of their mother to do that to their female classmates. Maverick, if I find out that you are teasing a little girl at school, a part of me will die inside. DO NOT DO IT.
You know how important it is to stand up for the kids who get picked on. And sometimes, you are the one who gets picked on, which really freaking sucks. I never know what to say when that happens, because the truth is, most people are as*holes. It’s probably better for you to learn this now, while you’re young, so you have time to adjust your expectations. Sometimes, there is no good reason for why people do what they do. We have to love them anyway, and you still need to use your manners.
You might not be the best this year. I don’t care. Just genuinely try to do well. Look after your little brother, don’t break any of the internet rules, and please, please, please for the love of God, do not be the kid who writes “EAT DEEZ NUTS” on the bathroom wall. It’s “these.” If you’re going to deface school property, at least make sure your grammar and spelling are on point.
ps. Maverick, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re mortified. That’s what you get for Googling me. We’ve told you not to do that.