Those dirty little hands grabbed my heart

By JAMIE PATTERSON,
My heart fluttered the day when I was told my firstborn child would be a boy. 
Don’t get me wrong. I love my daughter Elsie with all of my heart. But there is just something special about being the mother of boys. 
Granted, I have been blessed with another son since that day. My man cub Jase is a true Momma’s boy, through and through. 
But there was an uplifting yet almost frightening feeling that took over when I discovered my first child would later become James Jackson Patterson. 
Keep in mind, I had been raised around boys all my life. Most of my close friends growing up were boys. And I had been given the title of “one of the boys” for as long as I could remember. 
But this was the first boy that would completely be all mine. That “baby boy” will be turning ten years old Monday. And as we ease into the double-digits, I truly realize how fast your kids really grow up right in front of you. 
The past decade has been one heck of a learning experience. Looking past the basic trials of those first few years as a new parent, James has taught me so much more than snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails.
Little boys have that daredevil spirit from their time of birth. He was the most eager to take his first steps. He stumbled the most, but he always got up with a smile and determination. 
As the years progressed, that devil-may-care spirit grew into a lot to handle. 
James typically comes inside the house from outside playing with a wad of dirt in his hair and a red face. 
“Did you see what I did,” he asks, trying to catch his breath.  “If not, good.”
Little does he know, I am always peering out the window to watch him barrel down the hill in our backyard on the back of a Power Wheel. Or he’s jet sailing across the driveway on his bike. Or he’s either doing a Dukes of Hazzard driving trick in his sister’s Barbie car. 
When the door opens, I am often greeted with baby snakes, worms or various bugs. Different insects have been left in the fridge inside a paper cup. And a deer antler has been discovered a time or two. 
My house looks like a construction zone from numerous inside basketball games and broken chandeliers. There is a green glob of slime stuck to my ceiling that continues to expand. And there are black smears over my walls from grease and art sessions. 
I have stepped on my share of Lego pieces and Hot Wheels during the late hours of the night. I have stuck my hands inside shoes to discover some slimy goo. And I have managed to find gum stuck to the toilet seat. 
We have never broken any bones, but I have seen body parts I didn’t know could bleed. Bandage wrappers have littered the bathroom from recovering from a nose-dive off the front porch or a disagreement with a buddy.  
But despite all those messes, accidents and rough-housing, I wouldn’t have it any other way. James is your All-American, red-blooded boy who loves fast cars, dirt piles, pushing his tiny body to the limit and living to tell about it. 
He’s those dirty football pads in the hallway. He’s the dirt stains left on my couch. He’s the handprints left on the wall. He’s the beautiful chaos I needed in my life. 
Being the mother of two boys (and a high-spirited daughter) can be challenging. But I have never backed down from a challenge, and this is one I gladly accept. 
James’ tenth birthday is bittersweet because he is still learning and growing into the young man he will become. But I want it to slow down because I know I will miss it one day. 
But regardless of what he does in life, James had my love from the moment I heard his heartbeat. And with all the messes and blood that come with a little boy, the Kool-Aid kisses and dust-filled hugs are worth it. 
He grabbed my heart with dirt-covered hands and has never let go.