I’m a dragon, mom. And you’re a dog. That means we’ll fight a lot.
He was about eight or so. Young enough that he wasn’t so damn obstinate when someone suggested going to a Chinese restaurant (or any restaurant with anything other than burgers, chicken strips or fettuccine Alfredo on the menu). Young enough that the thought of not seeing his mama through rose colored glasses seemed as absurd as eating anything other than salad with Ranch dressing at the Chinese buffet.
We laughed at the absurdity of the blanket statement, and looked up the corresponding Chinese Zodiac animals for his brother and sister. Ox and goat. We all giggled, and he took particular pride in the fact that he was different; his brother and sister and I were all fairly common animals. Boring, even.
He was a dragon.
Dragons are fierce. Fiery. Formidable. Dragons are what he’s drawn almost every day for as long as I can remember; we have notebooks and sketchpads filled with dragon sketch after dragon sketch. I’ve never really been sure if his fascination with dragons was because that paper placemat told him he was one, or because dragons give him a peek into a world much more interesting than the one we occupy on the corner of boring and dull.
Today is my sweet boy’s birthday. He’s no longer that amiable eight year old. Now he’s a charming and sometimes stubborn fourteen year old. He’s taller than me and takes particular joy in calling me ‘short stuff.’ His voice is deeper. His memory is long. His sense of humor is quirky.
He still never stops talking.
His rose colored specs have given way to a teen’s equivalent of Transitions lenses, and I’m not always sure if I’m going to get my sweet guy or my grumpy guy. That’s normal, I know. And as strange as it sounds, the description of the dragon child suits him pretty darn well. He’s incredibly hard on himself. He’s a perfectionist. He compares. I always thought that was just because he is the middle child, fluent in ‘they always’ and ‘I never’ statements. I’m sure it’s no easy feat, trying to figure out who he is independent of the bookend siblings that he contends with.
What I hope is wrong, though, is the conclusion that we won’t get along. I see slivers of that now; he fights me on activities and rules about screen time and church time. He barks when I make him help with chores. He growls when he doesn’t get his way, and slams his door and sneers if someone dares open it without his permission.
In other words, he’s a completely normal fourteen year old dude living with two annoying females.
The memory of him reading that prediction, and our conversation afterwards, has been hanging around in the forefront of my mind for the better part of a week. Something tells me the friction might spark as he becomes more confident in his own voice, and that it might be especially emotional because we are, in very fundamental ways, so much alike. When two hard headed people butt heads, can it be anything other than brutal?
I may very well find out.
Not yet, though. Today we celebrate him for the boy he is and the man he’s growing in to. Today I think about how lucky I am that he still offers hugs and sits on the edge of my bed to tell me about his day. Today I give him a look that’s supposed to convey how annoyed I am that he can rightly call me short stuff, even though it doesn’t bother me one little bit. Today I’m thankful for my little dragon, and for the chance to see him grow into his wings.