I had already forgotten how hard it is to get a kid up in the early hours of the morning and get him ready. Those were hard long days during my last two years of high school that I sure don't miss.
And yet again, here I am at bloody six in the morning fighting this little devil's bad temper so I can get him to kindergarten before I head to school. It's not high school this time, no. It's college. When I found out about my pregnancy, I was shattered in more ways than one but what cost me the most was the knowledge that my dream to go to college and become a teacher would become impossible.
Well, impossible no more.
I did it. It may be four years later than normal but I still did it and I am so proud of myself. I will be able to show my baby boy that even as a teenage mother I didn't give up on my dream. That his existence encouraged me even more to be a good example to follow.
"Mommy, I don't want to go." He kicks the air with a huff and I roll my eyes at his attitude.
This boy of mine is not a morning kid I kid you not I have received a few hits from his tantrums in the past but I have been relentless in getting him to control his temper, to know it's not ok to hit someone and especially a girl or woman just because he is mad. And he's getting so much better but sometimes he acts without thinking.
Just like someone, I used to know...
"Dylan, what did I tell you about being aggressive just because you don't get what you want? What if you had hit me, huh?"
At my words, he sits up straight and looks at me wide-eyed. I know he does it without meaning to hurt anybody but still, he's too impulsive. I know exactly who he gets it from but I force myself to push those thoughts away.
"No, sorry mommy! I don't want to be bad but I am just so, so sleepy." He buries his head in my chest faking a sob.
Kids these days turn into professional manipulators by the age of five. Thank God I don't fall for it.
"If you had done as I told you to yesterday, you wouldn't be tired right now. Tonight, you'll go to bed earlier," he groans into my chest but makes no move to leave the bed or me. "Come on, let's get you ready. You have your first day of school today and we can't miss it."
"But I don't know anyone in this school." He tilts his head slightly to peek one eye at me.
It's so freaking hard to stay mad at that adorable face, I couldn't even if I wanted to.
"Don't be silly baby, you've spent the last two weeks playing with the next-door girl, Abby. She's your friend already and going to be in your class today."
Dylan straightens up and blushes slightly but keeps what should be a serious expression, one that I just find too cute to take seriously before answering me.
"But she's a girl. The boys will make fun of me for being friends with a girl." He crosses his arms over his chest and huffs.
I just laugh.
"Nonsense Dylan, what did I tell you about this kind of behaviours? Just because other boys like to be mean and take it out on girls it doesn't mean you have to be the same as them to be accepted. Because...?" I prolong the last word to let him finish.
"Because they are in the wrong. You don't hurt or hit girls, not even with a flower," he continues in a monotone voice.
Ever since he started having friends back at Nana's town, where we lived up until recently, I have been trying to teach him to not do what others do or tell him to just because it's cool and especially if it means treating girls poorly. I don't want my son to be a bully, be disrespectful or even worse...
We've moved up to this bigger city - Porto, in Portugal - when I was finally able to enrol into college and this fresh start was everything I had needed and never knew. It was hard at first to have Dylan accept the change but once we got settled and he got to know Abby things have been gradually easier.
I already found a job here, as a waitress in one of the diners downtown. They are flexible with schedules since they are used to hire students often and it couldn't have worked better because it's really close to where I have my classes.
When this opportunity arose Nana didn't even think twice to put her home for sale back in Évora, a small city in the south of the country, and buy one here to move with me and Dylan. Truth be told, I don't know where I would have been if it weren't for her. She stood by me when no one else did and for that, I am forever indebted to her.
"Exactly, and what do you do if other kids taunt you or hurt you?" I ask.
"I defend myself." He puffs his chest and I stifle a laugh; he tries to be tough but he's just too cute at my eyes.
"How so?" I push him, I want to hear him say the correct words.
I want my boy to be good but not too good. I don't want him to take shit from anyone.
"Well, if it's with words I just tell them off but if they hit me, I hit them back." He tries doing what could be a kung-fu move but ends up falling to the mattress on his back.
"No Dylan, you defend yourself and only hit if you really need to." I press. " Got it?"
"But if I can't show off the move uncle Jake taught me, why did I learn them?"
"To defend yourself and no more. Got it?" I press again.
"Yeeesss." He rolls his eyes while dragging the word.
"Good, now go get dressed. Do you need help?"
"No mom, I am a big boy!" He puffs his chest again.
"Ok, I'll be downstairs doing breakfast. Call me if you need help."
Ten minutes after when I am almost done with breakfast Dylan shows up by the kitchen with a lot of energy. The total opposite of the sleepyhead I had just woken up the moment before. This kid is just a ball of energy, I can only imagine when he grows up.
"Mommy, do I look good or what?" He poses in front of me with both hands on his hip, with the latter cocked to the side and a cocky expression on his face.
This kid couldn't be more like him even if I wanted to and it makes my hurt tug. A ton of memories that are buried back in my mind are threatening to be released and dampen my mood early in the morning. That is until I notice how his t-shirt is put inside out and his little jeans are unbuttoned.
I can't control the loud laugh that comes out of me making Dylan frown at my reaction before looking at himself.
"Come here you silly." I motion him to come closer and proceed to take the t-shirt off and put it back correctly and then button his jeans up correctly.
"Thanks, mommy," he chirps and runs off to his seat at the table.
We eat breakfast and I help him so he doesn't get stains on his clothing before taking him to school. There Abby is already waiting for him by the gate and as soon as we exit the car she starts to wave excitedly. Dylan grins at her and prepares to run but hesitates and looks up at me for permission.
I extend my hand, giving the hint that he has to hold my hand. There's a road we have to cross and I won't risk it even though it's right in front of the school and usually, drivers are careful, but you never know these days.
The walk to the gate is quick but not quick enough for my son, it seems. With each step that isn't as fast as he's expecting he tugs on my head, trying to make me go faster. I chuckle silently at his antics and when we finally reach Abby and her mother Dylan lets go of my hand and give Abby a big and tight hug.
My heart melts and reminds me of easier times. Times where I, too, had a best friend like Dylan that would hug me this tight and stand by me for everything. The fact that I no longer have that hurts and has left a big void in my heart, one that even Dylan can't fill. But whatever happened, it gave me what I have today and I wouldn't change my son for anything in this world.
"Good morning," I tell Abby's mom, forcing myself out of my thoughts. She replies kindly with another good morning and we fall into easy conversation about how was the weekend and how excited the kids were for school.
One of the teachers comes outside, letting me know it's time for them to start to go inside and I crouch to Dylan for my hug. He comes without hesitation, hugging me tightly.
"Remember to be good, okay? Voice what you're feeling and be kind baby, I will be back later to pick you up." I kiss him on the cheek as he nods at me before turning back to Abby.
He picks her hand up tangling their fingers together and together they go inside as the teacher accompanies the big group of kids. The sight makes me sigh to try and release some tension. I admit that separating from Dylan gives me anxiety, when he was little, he was my only comfort for my loneliness and when the time came that I had to start to work to help Nana and put him in school, I suffered greatly.
I used to bawl my eyes out every time I left him at school and spent the days on edge, waiting for a call that saying something bad happened or that his father had found about him and taken him. It never happened and slowly, I got used to the temporary time apart.
These next years would be tough though. On top of work, I had college and I am going to have to rely on my Nana a lot, she says she's fine with it and even though she's still totally independent and full of life I feel guilty. This time of her life should be to relax and enjoy and here she is, helping me out get my life straight.
I owe her my life and Dylan's because without her I would have given into the pressure my parents were giving me to get an abortion and even though I was just sixteen years old at the time, I couldn't. It wasn't his fault; it isn't and I couldn't do it.
They threw me out and Nana welcomed me in her hometown without thinking twice, she helped me when my own parents turned their back on me and for that, I am forever grateful. It took me three extra years to finish high school and that is why I am a freshman at college at the age of twenty-two.
Ideal? Of course not, but that's my life and I don't give up on anything. People usually say that if life throws you lemons you do lemonade and that's exactly what I did.
But for now, it's one day at a time and now I really have to go to college.