Old Man Leo

Because, you know, eight is so old.

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Leo would like me to explain that the poem he wrote last week about Bud Light is not about beer. It’s about sharing a light with your friend. (He was mortified that I thought it was about beer.)

He still loves to make up games, like Balloon Balloon Ball and Touchy Groundy and Guess the Commercial, which are too ridiculous to explain here. Kevin joins the games and demolishes Leo, which makes Leo laugh-scream and make more rules. Kevin finds the loopholes and makes Leo laugh-scream some more. But when I join the game, Leo slants the rules to help me win. He gives me redos or quietly slips me cards when I’m not doing well, meanwhile throwing everything bad he’s got at his dad.

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He shares ideas for novels and picture books with me, in case I ever get stuck. It breaks his heart when I have a rough week of writing, and he goes into Daily Affirmations mode, telling me I can do it! I got this! I’m the best writer ever!

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This week he’s into spinning. He spins and spins and spins, then tries walking and laughs when he bumps into things. Also, he has a joke for you:

What did the horse say when it fell down?
I’ve fallen and I can’t giddyap!

He has two beds in his room. He sleeps on the floor next to them.

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Leo is a perfectionist. I knew this about him from the time he was two. If he couldn’t make a toy do what he wanted the first time, he wanted nothing to do with it. At school, he can be sent into tears when he gets a problem wrong or when his teacher offers some advice. (Hm. Wonder where he gets it from?)

He’s an emotional child. He can suddenly turn on you if you ask him to repeat something or if you enter a room too loudly when he’s working on a book report or if your name is Rocco and you are within eyeshot.

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Leo’s teacher lets him pick three friends to work in a small group with him when I volunteer. It was torturous for him because it wasn’t fair to the ones who couldn’t come out, so he had his teacher help him make sure every classmate gets a chance. Bless his little heart.

He’s not into stuff. He couldn’t even do Pokemon trading at his birthday party because he had given all his cards away. “I just like to look at them,” he says.” I don’t care about keeping them.” This morning at breakfast, he gave his last piece of Nutella-chocolate sprinkle toast to Vincenzo just because. He happily fills his claw machine with prizes he’s collected and lets his friends win them all.

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He still likes me to help get him out of the bathtub. I spread the towel on my lap and he hugs his legs to his chest and I see if he can still fit all the way in the towel. He does. Barely. I carry him to his room while he smiles sweetly up at me, like an overgrown, blissfully swaddled baby.

People  often pull me aside to tell me how much they love Leo. Maybe it’s because  he leads with his heart. Maybe it’s because they just gave him a dozen Pokemon cards. Maybe it’s his speech impediment, which is as adorable to us as it is frustrating to him. (Six years of speech therapy, and counting!)

I’m happy for Leo that he’s 8, but I’m a little sad for me. It’s harder to shrink him down in my mind back to the all-smiles baby he was. There are things I’ve forgotten that he’s said or done in the past 8 years. It’s been a long time since he stumbled out of bed in the morning and crawled into mine to snuggle. His silly often overshadows his sweet.

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But the essence of baby Leo—the feeling that he is something precious and that holding him makes me feel there doesn’t need to be anything else in the world? Still there. The feeling that he is giving more than he’s taking? Still there. The feeling that I want to protect him because his heart might be too big for the world? Still there.

Leo is my little love. My heart. He’s my Bud Light.

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But like his brothers, he’s growing up too fast. I’m going to need some bigger towels.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Dinner @ Mom & Dad’s!

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