Our son, Leo, came into this world in a bit of a nightmare situation back in 1999 but, regardless, he was one of the easiest children ever to raise and to love. He challenged us a bit with court-room type drama once in a while but, it seemed it was mostly for good reasons. He ended up being our only child, even though we hadn’t planned it that way, and funny, since both Dean and I come from large families.
He never once got into anything or made huge messes. Never opened the cupboard under the sink or dismantled the chandelier like his Uncle Jobe. He would ask me daily for his nap time saying, ‘Nap now, Mum’ as he put his chubby hands together by his right ear and tilted his head as if it was his pillow (the American Sign Language sign for bedtime). He would then sleep for about three hours.
So, this one crisp autumn day, we were running around on a country soccer pitch with our two big Northern dogs, Delta and Grizzly. Leo was wearing his blue hooded, hand-knitted sweater from Nanny in Newfoundland. We had this old soccer ball that Dean was eager for Leo to fall in love with, soccer being Dean’s passion.
The dogs were racing around. Leo was racing around. I was watching Leo’s every move (as was my normal then).
Suddenly, from about 50 feet away, Dean passes that soccer ball to Leo. Let me rephrase that. Dean hauled off and belted that soccer ball toward Leo. There was 2-year old toddler Leo. Watching that ball sail toward him. It became slo-mo for a sec, and then WHAP! Leo caught it right on the middle of his smooth, baby, forehead. His blond head snapped back slightly and then forward again.
I screamed, ‘YOU ASSHOLE’! At Dean for doing this to my baby. We raced to him. I picked up Leo expecting major tears.
He didn’t even cry.
Dean was mortified. He hadn’t expected the ball to fly at Leo’s forehead.
After our move to the Annapolis Valley, our Leo being about four years old then, we started off in a duplex up on Pleasant St as was told in this story: A Simple East Coast Life. So, at the time, Leo was usually getting up in the middle of the night to get a drink and to pee. He would routinely wake me up to let me know what was going on with him. This one day, I kindly explained to Leo that it would be perfectly fine if he were to get up and do his thing without disturbing me and also without tripping over the dogs where they would inevitably lay in the doorway of our bedroom (the bathroom being across the hall). The power of plain language is going to be highlighted here.
That night, middle of the night, Leo gets up and taps me on the shoulder, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to disturb you but, I am going to get a drink and go pee’. I claw myself out of a deep sleep to acknowledge my mistake (he didn’t know what ‘disturb’ meant!) While I’m at it, I remind him not to trip over the dogs.
Well, he stepped successfully over the fur-heads enroute to the bathroom. I hear him do his pee. I hear him fill the water cup, sip, then, step, step, step…
Scurry of large dogs away from the wet spill.
‘Sorry Mommy. I tripped and spilled my water.’
All this time, Dean is still snoring. Men.
First year of University, in our same town. Leo is eighteen now and in residence. One day, early on, I get a text:
‘Mom, I’m gonna need another towel asap.’
Leo was always a pretty confident guy. Always pretty sure that every need and necessity would be met. Living on his own was going to be a bit of a curve.
Leo to his dad by text, ‘hope I’m not pushing my luck with this one but could you get mom to give me some new linens for me to put on my bed?’ (Keep in mind that I have asked him to bring his linens home to wash each week. He did it once in six months.)
This year, in a house with five guy roommates:
‘mom, can I cook this frozen pizza in a microwave?’
Me: ‘no honey. In the Oven.’
Leo: ‘I don’t think there is an oven.’
Me thinking, how does one not notice an oven?
‘ok so keven and I left a bunch of dishes in the dishwasher for way too long and now they’re all moldy, what should we do?’
‘the lightbulb in my bathroom stopped working, any tips on the fix’
He had this way of hearing and observing me and drawing conclusions. Like this one day when he was four, we went to a friend’s house who had just been brushing his teeth, with the residual paste on his lips. I asked, ‘did we catch you at a bad time?’
A few days later, a canvasser comes to our front door. Leo and I go to the door together, as was our way then. We open the door to find a man with a tie and clip board but, he also had a bit of white toothpaste on the side of his mouth. Leo asks me: ‘Mommy, did we catch him at a bad time?’ It was weird, but I knew instantly why my little guy would ask that.
One final one for ya… this one day, Leo was very disappointed because he wasn’t allowed to go for a play with a friend because something else was going on. He began to cry pretty hard in disappointment. His face red. I said, ‘Buddy? Are you going to be okay?’ Leo looks at me straight on and says: ‘I’m having a hard time’. He had overheard me say this to a friend who was sad.
Make no mistake about it. Being a mom is the best thing I have ever done. The best gift I have ever received was a precious little guy to raise and love and form a family with.
(Photos taken by Martha Valiquette)