Jack has been on a tooth-losing tear, and last night, his remaining top front tooth was literally a flap, swinging in his breath like an open gate in the wind. I could not imagine the sliver of root to which that tooth must have been clinging, so tenuous but so sure. It reminded me of the weirdly flexible strength of spider silk. He asked me to pull it so I tried but just couldn't get it do more than turn another 20 degrees. That was a bit gross. Then, J said, "You know what, let me do it." Y'all, I have not been so surprised by someone I know so intimately in a long time. I was delighted to see a new side of him, a new sense of courage and take-charge. He is, in many ways, much like I was as a child: he tends to be cautious; kind to the point that standing up for himself isn't an innate strength because he would never presume meanness in others; he wants to please; he follows rules and cannot lie; he is an avid reader. He's also a lot like Tom: he loves to engineer, build and construct; he loves math and science; he can focus like a laser but also be so easily distracted you think the expression about "if his head wasn't attached, he'd lose it" was coined after meeting him.

In any case, having been his mother for 6 years, 7 months and 7 days, I think I know Jack better than does almost anyone else. We've got a real bond, he and I. I sometimes jokingly call him my son-daughter because he's such a boy but loves clothes and has a true appreciation for beauty; he will, for hours, engage with total absorption in pretend ninja battles and potty talk sometimes seems like his modus operandi, but he is the sweetest little boy I've ever known. Long story short, I realized last night that I'd pigeon-holed him to some extent. Having had to force him onto a bike, throw him into a pool, strap him into an inner tube and so forth (all things my parents had to do to me, by the way), I rather assumed he'd lack courage until he needed to find it. That's how I was, I think, never truly trusting of my own strength until I was forced to rely on it.

But then, this darling little boy suddenly grabs hold of a washcloth, wets and wrings it out, and grips the loose tooth with such earnest determination. He pulled it, twisted it, moved it about. It bled and stung but still he tried. We laughed so hard together, my eyes wide with wonder and admiration. It was wonderful to be reminded that if you let your children (but, frankly, your spouse, friends, pretty much anyone) be themselves and grow in the safety and comfort of your love, they will evolve and change in ways more dynamic and exciting than you'd imagined.

We never did get that tooth out -the orthodontist popped it out today much to J's surprise- but I saw my little boy in a new light. I saw that his wings may simply unfurl later than did others, with more prudence than have others. He simply needs to know we're there when he's ready to take flight.