My youngest drew this portrait of me. Notice the smile, the svelte waist, the coiffed hair. And my arms.
“What are those bumps on my arms?” I ask.
“Those are your muscles,” he answers, looking for all the world like a harried middle manager who has to deal with underlings who should know the answers to these questions.
Apparently, in his eyes, I am the strongest woman in the world. I’m going to let him keep that fairy tale intact. I’ll take the jaunty tilt of the head, too. In his drawing of me I look ready for anything the world might chuck at me, like Amelia Earhart contemplating the aircraft that’s going to fly her around the world. I look adventurous.
I’m not, actually, very adventurous. My idea of the perfect vacation is one that allows for hours and hours of uninterrupted reading time. Risky, I know! I don’t even wear high heels very often. I’m strong enough to lift a hay bale, but when my ten year old goes limp in my arms it’s all I can do not to drop him. I do miss the feeling of being able to hoist all my children away from what danger may lurk; that was a good feeling. It’s comforting, though, to realize B has no clue that if we were suddenly attacked by a giant, boy-eating squid, one or two boys would be sacrificed by necessity. These arms? Can’t hold everyone. Sorry, kids.
It’s great how it works, though. Just as my arms fail to support their heft, these boys grow their own muscles. Their own arms fill in with hard, gristly bits; their backs become like those of dolphins, their bellies ripple with undercurrent and their legs discover propulsion greater than mine. They blossom into creatures capable of flight. Soon, they will be able to carry me to safety. Or, at least, to the bathroom.
I hope to spare us all from that particular humiliation for a while yet, but still. I love that my boys are growing into tall, strong men. Men who will stop and help retrieve cats from trees. Men who will bend to lift a child up to his own shoulders, like someone once did for him. Men who care. Men who love. Men who admit fear and do the scary thing anyway.
Men who see me as the strongest woman in the world.