“G’day mate,” he says to everyone he passes, in a perfect Australian accent. He is walking around Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Some people are amused by the friendly ten-year-old chirping out Australian greetings in the midst of Urban California, while others just ignore him. He doesn’t care either way. He loves his Australian lingo, and loves to use it whenever he can.
He’s really nothing like a Koala, except for his love of Australia. We have Paul Hogan to thank for that. Nothing like a little Crocodile Dundee with that shark tooth necklace round his neck to inspire romantic notions of the Outback. And a killer Aussie accent. He also eats constantly (my koala that is, not Crocodile Dundee), but thankfully not eucalyptus leaves. Koalas are a little on the lazy side – those leaves don’t provide a lot of energy – and I guess he is somewhat more lazy than the average growing boy his age. He doesn’t like to help clean up, would rather tool around on Instagram than go for a hike or a bike ride, unless it’s round the lake where he can practice his Australian. Or somewhere on a skateboard.
He calls himself the “true middle.” I don’t know how he figures that when he’s the second of four – there are really two middles, or no middles – but he says he’s the true middle. Maybe it’s because he was in the middle first.
Whatever it is, it seems like a tough place to be for him. Easily frustrated. In search of excitement all the time. If we don’t have a fun agenda for every minute of the weekend, he’s mad and disappointed. He nags to have his friends over every day. “No play dates today,” I tell him. It’s already a busy afternoon, and more kids means more chaos. “Fine,” he yells, clearly disappointed, obviously frustrated, feeling many things but definitely not fine.
He worries that plans are going to change without his knowledge. Wears me down with his questions. “Can we see The Muppets Most Wanted, Mom?” “When can we see it?” “Are we going to see The Muppets Most Wanted?” No matter how many times I assure him we will see it, it’s not enough. He wants a firm commitment, a day, a time – preferably today, right now. I can’t commit. “We’ll see it, I said we’ll see it.” My jaw is tight. “But not today. And stop nagging.”
But he has the best sense of humor. Cracks jokes, laughs so hard he cries. Loves to rap, and dance, and play DJ in the car, spinning the dial from channel to channel until he finds the just right song. No alt rock. No Billy Joel. We fight over the radio. He usually wins.
The most friendly. The biggest heart. Compassionate. Sensitive. “What did you do today, Mom?” he asks every afternoon. The others don’t even notice I have a life before 3pm.
Koalas are not actually bears. They are marsupials – like kangaroos and wombats – with a pouch for their babies. A pouch where the young ones feel safe and secure and taken care of. My koala throws his arms around my neck, squeezes me close. I know he’s frustrated when he does that, worried about something, wants to feel safe with me. He plants big kisses on my cheeks every morning.
And yesterday he did something amazing. I wasn’t home, and an elastic band came off his braces. He called me. Here we go, I thought. I’ll have to schedule an appointment, find the time…
“Mom, I called the orthodontist and told them what happened. They said it’s not a big deal and I can just come in tomorrow morning, but I said I had to ask my mom.”
Did I mention that he’s ten? I think he might be leaving the pouch…
I wonder if he spoke to the orthodontist in an Australian accent?
This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.