We were out with friends last weekend in a festive place, with street performers and midway rides and artists for hire and food. Lots of bad-for-you food.
After we drank milkshakes and rode a roller coaster and stared at the mass of humanity around us, we walked by a churro cart.
Our friend, who had resisted the temptation of ice cream, was feeling called by the churro. So he bought one.
Cooper piped up, “Oh, I love churros.”
I was confused. How did my son even know what a churro was? I’ve never fried them at home. I couldn’t remember buying him one. Maybe he was mistaken.
He continued. “I love all that cinnamon.”
No, he definitely wasn’t confused. Sometime in his life, without me ever knowing, he had sampled the delicious pastry.
The moment was part of mounting evidence that my 10-year-old is achieving the independence he’s supposed to. Perhaps one day I’ll stop being surprised.
While we were on vacation in Washington state this summer, we stopped at a rustic lake resort to rent a boat for an hour.
I’m not much of the nautical sort. I get confused just reading books about boats — aft, starboard, keel, stern. All the words and their meanings jumble together, and I’m certain my mental picture never matches what the writer intends.
And I’m not great at steering. I can steer my minivan safely under almost all conditions, but I have trouble backing into a parking space or backing out of an area with nearby obstacles. I get stuck on which way to turn the wheel to achieve the direction I need. (There are a few scrapes on my minivan to prove it.)
My most extensive nautical experience is navigating a canoe downriver with two friends for three hours. Perhaps renting a boat wasn’t the best idea.
Cooper, Katie and I gingerly stepped into the rental rowboat. I sat on the middle bench and took the oars from the dock employee. I rowed a little, trying to get us clear of the dock. Instead, we headed backward, trapping us closer to shore.
I changed direction, got us away from the bank and then somehow steered us back toward shore.
Cooper, who had been patiently staring at me, piped up, “Momma, do you want me to help? I can tell you what to do.”
I was confused. How did my son know how to talk me through rowing a boat?
He continued. “Remember, at Webelos camp, I rowed a boat with Mr. Brian?”
Yes, he did. I remembered seeing the cellphone photo from Scout camp. So he gave me simple, easy-to-understand directions.
I still wasn’t moving us very well.
“Momma, do you want me to row the boat?”
Yes, I did.
He grabbed the oars and expertly moved us into the middle of the lake. He knew which direction to move the oars, when to pull one oar out of the water, when to rest.
He was strong and confident. He smiled constantly. He had saved our outing with skills learned independently from the family. He was justifiably proud.
At the end of that vacation, as the three of us were squished together on the plane flying home, I gave out imaginary awards. (I was short on supplies for actual certificates.)
Katie received the award for bravery, earned after badly scraping her leg one day on an unseen tree trunk at high tide. Cooper received the award for grace under pressure, earned for keeping our family afloat.
In six short years, I expect he’ll get an award for parallel parking. Perhaps on our way to a churro cart.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.