A radiant smile

In the last few months my younger boy, my “baby” as I call him, has become a man.

He was a beautiful baby, with large greenish eyes in a round face and yellow-blonde hair. He looked like a cherub…his first months were difficult, as he was often ill with bronchitis but fortunately when he was a year old I began taking him to a homeopath who did wonders for him – and my baby who was constantly coughing did not cough for a long, long time and became a happy child, always with a radiant smile on his face.

Years went by so quickly…he was always a warm, affectionate child and much attached to me. Always grabbing my hand, trying to sneak into my bed at night and giving me the most delightful hugs and kisses one could imagine. When his brother embarked on his argumentative teens he was there to remind me the delights of motherhood (which you barely enjoy with teenagers), his lovely happy face lighting up when he saw me coming through the door. I would tell him a bedside story, we’d watch movies together, and I’d take him to Saturday afternoon parties…

He always enjoyed sports, like his brother. First he played tennis for some time, and he was good at it, but then the call from the rugby field where his brother already played was too strong, and he began training just to see if he enjoyed it – and he’s been there to this day, where he is considered to be a very good player.

His primary school was a state school and in the first years he had his big brother there. In his last year, however, his brother had already left, but he seemed as happy as ever. He had many friends but with two of them he was very close and they played together over weekends. He didn’t work too hard – just enough and we had to keep a close watch to see that he did his homework. But I had no reason to worry about anything at school until one day, at a school meeting with all the parents some of them said their children were afraid to go to the courtyard at break time, because some older boys from an orphanage who were in their class intimidated and threatened them. I was worried that something might be wrong and above all because Pedro had never mentioned anything. When I got home that day I asked him what was going on, if the older boys had tried to harm him in some way, and he looked at me serenely and said: “No Mummy, I haven’t had any problems with them. They are not my friends, but we play football together”, and I could see this was not an issue for him. I was so glad that he was capable of getting along with everyone, as we must in life. Even if those “naughty” boys were not his friends, football brought them together and the fact that he played with them contributed to his not feeling intimidated by them in the least, unlike many of his classmates. I was proud of my boy on that day, and throughout his life he has always shown this ability to adapt to various environments and different sorts of people.

The following year he joined his brother at a private school and there he met the group of friends he has to this day, boys who have been coming over and spending holidays with us for so many years now that I regard them as family. They all play rugby together and when after a few years Pedro again moved to a state school, most of them followed. They are inseparable, for better or for worse: they stick together at all times, and have been invaluable support to two of their friends who unfortunately lost their fathers too early in life; it was heart rendering to see them when they were fourteen, and again at seventeen, making a circle around their bereaved friends and supporting them unconditionally. They also have a lot of fun together, going out at night, going camping at summer festivals or getting together at the rugby club to watch other teams play or simply enjoy the friendly atmosphere.

Last September he began his last year of high school. I felt he was not sure he had chosen the right subjects, especially regarding Maths, considered to be one of the most difficult subjects and one with the toughest final exam. During the first term I worriedly noticed how he seemed confused, fearful, and unable to decide if his chosen path was the one he really wanted. I saw my happy boy, with an always ready smile, become taciturn and unhappy. He lost the smile on his face and I knew it was difficult to help him, this was a fight he had to solve himself and we, his parents, could only advise and support him whenever he came to a decision.

At a certain point he told me he was considering dropping Maths as he foresaw having difficulties with the final exam. He was also undecided about which university course he would choose, but those he was considering didn’t require Maths so this would not be a problem should he decide to change. Still, he was very much under the impression that to change would mean “giving up” and this was a hard decision for him. At this point we supported him completely and I firmly told him” Pedro, changing your mind is not giving up – in fact it’s a sign of intelligence. To change the course of events while you still can. I have changed my mind several times in my life and never regretted it!”. And then I laughed, and added “When I was young I didn’t want to have children…I’m so glad I changed my mind!” and he laughed with me.

Finally he decided he would be dropping Maths. He would have to do two other subjects instead, one of them History, which he loves. He would have to study by himself the subjects of three years in just a few months, and we finally saw him change his attitude – he began to work seriously, something he hadn’t really done so far. Now that he had taken his decision it was as if a weight had come off his shoulders and he began to smile again. He was worried about the responsibility, but he had suddenly taken his life in his hands and now it was only up to him, to fail or to succeed.

I was so happy to have my boy back! At the same time, he was taking his motorbike driving license, for which he had two pass two exams – the theoretical and the practical one. In addition he would have his final exams at school, no less than three. One day that he was tired of so much studying he sighed “Mom, I see nothing but exams ahead of me… “, and I replied: “See it this way: this is the year when you will face many challenges and will overcome them all!”, and he looked at me and smiled, his eyes shining with hope but also with a new determination.

And the days came when he started to pass his exams, one by one. First he got his driving license (passing first one exam and then the other). This was a great boost for his ego, and I told him he was on the right path. And then came the other exams, and after each one of them he came home and said they had gone well, and we confidently waited for the results.

On “D” day I was the one to give him the news, as there is this dear lady who works at his school with whom I have became friends, and when the phone rang at 8 am I knew it was her. When she told me the results I could not believe my ears, as they were even better than we had expected! He had done very well, and his highest result had been precisely in History, where he had studied hundreds of pages by himself…and curiously this was the only result he had been a bit anxious about…

As I told him the news I could hear his voice happy, exultant, on the other side. He was actually on his way to school to see the results with his own eyes, to bask in his glory – long awaited, but well deserved.

Later that day, after a bear hug and kisses and congratulations, I asked him if he remembered what I had told him a few months before about this being the year of all challenges. And he said yes, he remembered I had told him the day would come when he would have conquered all, and he would always remember this as the year when he had had so many exams but had triumphed over each one of them.

As he left to go and celebrate with his friends, I watched him go with a happy heart. There are special years in our lives – I’ve had them too – and this is one such year for him. To add up he’s been in love for a few months now, dating a lovely, bright girl. Now that he has successfully finished high school he will move on to another stage in his life, to university. He feels happy, confident, and has every reason to be. He will now relax and enjoy his well deserved holidays.

I watch him from the window, walking with long strides. I’m so happy for my boy, I feel so proud that he conquered his fears and indecisions and is now ready to move on to the next chapter. He will always be my baby – as his brother is – but he is now a grown man, and he has shown it. And he knows it; he knows he is now one step beyond. And I don’t have to see his face to know he has a huge smile on his face. Savouring the sweet taste of success and feeling all is well in his life.

Oh yes, as he disappears on the corner of our street in my mind I can still see him, his handsome face and a most radiant smile.