[by Susan Ashline]
This was an Easter of growing pains – his, not mine.
Saturday evening, I thought my son would be interested in an Easter Egg hunt at the community center. This was a cool one, a flashlight hunt for kids grades five and up. Reed had spent the previous six years in fear of egg hunts, refusing to do them. He was the kid who stood there when the whistle sounded, then cried as all the other kids stampeded and scooped up the eggs in front of him – *snap* gone. But this year, at 11, he decided he wanted to do egg hunts. He just wanted the candy.
I was so excited. All these years, he’d deprived me of taking him to Easter egg hunts.
Reed asked a friend of his to join him at the event. We got there early. The gym was dark but for flashes of disco lights, and there was music playing. A group of girls arrived. They went into the gym alone.
We waited longer, and eventually Reed’s friend showed up. His father said “hello” – then left.
The boys lingered in the entrance waiting for another friend, while I sat in a chair in front of a TV, next to a table with magazines. Another group of kids arrived and went into the gym. As a parent saw them off, I overheard a staffer enthusiastically shout, “You’re welcome to stay if you want!” Nope. She didn’t.
Reluctantly, I told my own son, “I can pick you up later.” He didn’t want me to leave. I was so relieved.
I thought this was going to be a parent-child event. It hit me hard – the kids were old enough to be sans parents. This was it. The end. Or, the beginning. It was the first event (except for birthday parties) the parents weren’t expected to stay with their children and participate, or help them participate.
I wasn’t ready for this. He’s only 11. And he’s a small 11. I mean, he still sleeps with stuffed animals. How can he be old enough to go to an event without me?
It’s not like I hadn’t been through this before. But when my oldest was 11, I had a toddler in tow. It’s been more than 21 years of attending parent-child events. And now, it’s over. I mean – it’s over?
When the friend didn’t show, the boys made their way into the gym. A staffer offered me pizza. I helped her carry boxes. Ya know – made it look as though I was there to be of assistance, rather than because I was afraid to let go.
While they did their middle-school age stuff in the gym, I walked around outside. But I didn’t go far. What if he needed me to cut his meat?