Son and sunscreen

(That title sounds like a Jane Austen rip-off, doesn’t it?)

We had weather in the eighties here on Saturday, which was absolutely fabulous.  It was a great chance to do some of our favorite summertime things: relax on the patio furniture, haul out the water toys, and get the boys into their swimsuits for some lawn sprinkler fun.

It was also a chance to do one of my least favorite summertime things: Apply sunscreen to my offspring.

This is one of those mom-tasks that I find unbelievably onerous.  I hate squirting a splodge of sunscreen into my palm and then trying to transfer it to the exposed areas of my boys’ bodies, especially when they are antsy to break away and get to the playground/bikes/swimming pool.  In these moments, they are the very definition of the term “moving target,” which  makes it extremely challenging to cover their faces without getting it into their eyes.   I’d actually rather change a diaper than put on suncreen, which should tell you something.

And on Saturday, as Scott set up the oscillating sprinkler and the boys danced out to the backyard in their swimming trunks, I had to stop and corral them and make them stand, more or less immobile, for the ritual Coppertone anointing.  And I grumbled inside.

But when it was Luke’s turn, something shifted.  He stood there, my little guy, in his red swim trunks, with his smooth tummy and back and shoulders and arms, and as I rubbed the sunscreen onto his torso he giggled and said, “Hey, that tickles!”  And we both laughed, and I had a moment’s awareness that my baby is not such a baby anymore. He is a big three-year-old, old enough to tell me that it tickles.  And yet he still has a poochy little belly, and that impossibly soft skin that he had when he was a newborn.  One of my friends was hugging him the other day and said, “He feels just like Charmin, so squeezable,” and she’s totally right.  And as I stood there with him on the sunny patio, anointing him, it occurred to me that this was a very precious moment.

He’ll be a truly big kid someday, old enough to put sunscreen on his own self.   I’ll be off the hook.  And yet I just may miss this ritual more than I think I will.

And so as I finished with the sunscreen, I let myself truly inhabit the moment.  I used the camera of my memory to record his cuddly little frame and those round little shoulders and those little feet that shifted on the patio, eager to break away from Mommy and run off towards adventure.

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