In the past ten months my son Elroy Jetson* has grown four inches. I’m an average height woman, though in some Pacific Rim countries I’d be considered modelesque, but now Elroy is taller than me. He is twelve. Elroy has always been tall for his age. By ten, he had reached the height of a full-grown North Korean soldier.
Last summer Elroy and I took a bike ride together and he struggled to keep up with me. As we rode around our neighborhood, the hills proved too steep at certain points and Elroy had to get off his bike and walk his way to the top. Earlier this week we took the same path.
“No getting off your bike this time,” I shouted over my shoulder at him. “Push yourself.”
I dug in, straining from my gut as I climbed the hill when Elroy came whizzing by, smiling. He yelled over his shoulder, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll wait for you at the top.”
The irritating part was how he said it—as if riding faster than me was something he had always done instead of this unforeseen reversal of fortune. He wasn’t even winded.
If Elroy was an extremely active boy who played travel soccer three times a week, I could have anticipated this newfound strength and endurance. But that’s not the case. He may shoot basketballs or ride his bike around the cul-de-sac, but there are no training schedules. He doesn’t play sports so much as dabble in them. He’ll play flag football and basketball in non-competitive leagues for an hour or so a week during their designated seasons before moving on to the next activity. His preferred recreation is Xbox and annoying his sister.
Elroy was born tiny weighing three-and-a-half pounds. While in premature labor, I sneezed once and he appeared. Small and weak, he spent three weeks in the hospital. Now he’s growing like one of those time-lapse nature films.
That afternoon my husband called in from the road and told me that Elroy had texted him earlier: I beat Mom biking today. Badly.
“Ah, youth,” said my husband. “And testosterone.”
It was just Elroy and me alone in the house. His father was traveling and his sister was away at camp. After dinner, I asked Elroy if he’d like to arm wrestle. He laughed at me, then shrugged. “Okay.” A brief thought that I might be turning into The Great Santini crossed my mind, but I couldn’t help myself. I had a sudden urgent desire to find out how strong Elroy had become. Leg power and endurance is one thing but arm strength is a totally different ball of wax. Elroy was an inch taller than me, but I still outweighed him by twenty pounds. And I do yoga, which I was certain would give me the edge. We grasped hands at the kitchen table.
“Are you trying?” I asked
“Yes,” Elroy said.
“Sort of, but I don’t think you’re trying.”
“No, I am,” I said.
“Okay, then I am too.”
Then I really did try, as hard as I could to get his arm down. But our hands remained clasped tight, straight up like an arrow from the table, a perfect 90-degree angle. I couldn’t budge him at all.
“Okay, let’s call it a tie,” I said and dropped his hand.
“You didn’t have to stop. I wasn’t getting tired.”
“Let’s just call it a tie.”
That night he lay in bed reading a comic book. I thanked Elroy for going biking with me. “No problem,” he said. “It was fun. And I’m especially glad no one saw us together.”
Two days ago my husband and I drove Elroy to camp in the woods of New Hampshire. I’ll miss my son, of course, but now I have plenty of time to work out before he comes home.
*Not his real name but one he reluctantly agreed I could use for this post.