From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

The Grill Drill

Men are what their mothers made them.

RalphWaldo Emerson

How does the old saying go? “A daughter’s a daughter all her life, but a son’s a son until he takes a wife.” Whoever coined that phrase was dead wrong. It should go like this: “A daughter’s a daughter all her life, but a son’s a son until he discovers superheroes and wrestling and baseball.” Now that’s a saying any mother of a preschool-aged boy can sink her teeth into.

And that’s exactly how I lost my son. Or so I thought.

For the first year, Iwas the only one who existed in Weston’s world. His round green eyes had only enough room for my face, and he screamed when anyone else dared touch him. I feigned frustration—“This child won’t give me a break!”—but secretly I was thrilled.

The second year I became “his girl.”

“Don’t kissmy girl,” Daddywould say, and Weston would run to me, his lips puckered so hard they pinched his face.

“My grill!” he called me, and I blushed with boundless love.

He clambered onto my lap to read books, watch movies, get sleepy, have a snack. But I could see something brewing; he was less baby and more little boy. Losing him was inevitable. And imminent.

Sure enough, age three rolled around, and Weston discovered three things almost immediately: superheroes, rough play and Daddy. Even worse, Mommy wasn’t very good at tossing him in the air. She didn’t know the Green Lantern from Flash, and, well, she just wasn’t Daddy.

At first I got the occasional, charitable snuggle during a Spiderman cartoon and still got embroiled in the “my grill” tug-of-war between Weston and Daddy. But that was simply a precursor to a wrestling smackdown. I was a prop, like a folding chair or a two-by-four.

Soon Mommy vanished from the picture altogether, except to make lunches or tuck him in, and Daddy became a superhero in his own right. As he should be, I thought. But does it have to happen so soon? I sorely missed the cuddling.

Out of the blue, at almost four, Weston said, “I don’t want you to be a grandma.”

“Mmm . . .” I said and left it at that, but he became so insistent that I reassured, “ButM ommy won’t be a grandma for a very long time.”

Still he kept it up, creeping up to me at the computer or shouting it out in the bath. “I don’t want you to be a grandma.”

But why, I wondered, worried that he perceived some defect in my grandma-ing ability. Doesn’t he think I’ll be a good grandma? Finally, curiosity got the best of me.

“Why don’t you want me to be a grandma?” I asked.

“Because,” he said, his little brow creased with concern, “I want you to stay my grill.”

I smiled, fighting back tears of joy. “I’ll always be your grill,” I reassured him, and he smiled back at me, relief relaxing his face.

Seems I hadn’t quite lost him after all. While Daddy received superhero status, I held a special place in Weston’s life, too: I was his first love. My green-eyed baby might have room in his eyes for more than just me these days, but I will forever be front and center in his heart.

It’s good to be somebody’s “grill.”

Jennifer Brown

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