Elijah and I have been taking evening walks while Manny stays home with Ezekiel. I treasure the rare alone-time with my sweet boy. He holds my hand as we walk. I love the way his tiny hand feels warm and soft in mine. As we stroll he talks to me about every thought that enters his head. He jabbers about the birds, the water running down the driveway from the heavy rains, pine cones, the neighbors and what they have in their yards, plants we see, puddles, ducks, how drainage pipes work, lawn mowers, the clouds, and the way his cowboy boots make clack-clack sounds on the pavement. Mostly I just enjoy listening and say things like "that's right honey", or "it sure is", or "you're so smart".
And he is... so smart.
Tonight on our walk we strolled past two little boys playing on a swing set. They were shouting and chasing each other and looked to be having a great time. Elijah stopped in his tracks, looked at them, looked at me, and announced "I'm going to go play with those boys. Okay Mom?". And that's just what he did.
He walked up to them, asked their names (Brendan and Riley) and ages (6 and 6-and-a-half) introduced himself and told them he is three. And that's it - instant friends. They played together until it got almost dark. He learned some new tricks - like how to jump off the jungle jim, how to spit off the top of the slide, how to make the swings go over the top of the bar, and how to get on base fastest when playing tag.
I almost wanted to cry, watching him gain confidence and independence as he held his own in the game of chase and climbed onto the teeter-totter without my assistance. He's moving little by little out of the protective nest of my influence and into his own world. He's embracing the shift out of toddlerdom with slightly more enthusiasm than I would like. Understanding that this metamorphosis will happen with or without my permission makes me feel more urgency to hold onto him while I can. To cuddle close and whisper in his ear a little longer a night, to kiss his face while he'll still let me, to wipe his tears away while he still needs me to.
The days of Elijah are changing.
He didn't hold my hand as we walked home.