Learning to YOLO from an 8-year-old

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That baby that changed everything turned 8 recently.

I guess all babies change everything, but this one. This Julian. This kid, my squirrely ray of sunshine that loves Minecraft, Pokeman, ramen noodles and YOLO-ing.

YOLO entered our lexicon before Julian even knew the phrase behind it. He watches enough YouTube to learn many things about American culture that I would never expect a second grader to absorb, and one of his YouTubers apparently used the word in context without explaining what the letters stand for.

Driving down the road one day, Julian saw a bird dive off a wire and he exclaimed, “Mom, that bird totally just YOLO’d!” I laughed when he described it to me. I asked if he knew what YOLO meant. He said it meant doing something crazy or exciting. “But do you know what it stands for?” He didn’t.

“You only live once,” I told him.

In the year since, we “YOLO.” On an otherwise tame walk on the Lady Bird Lake boardwalk, we jolt into a sprint, racing to the end of the bridge and work on our jogging form. During downtime on a Saturday, we whip out the blender and play Smoothie Challenge, in which the boys draw numbers indicating which melange of random pantry ingredients they will whirl in their smoothie. (Whoever has the tastiest smoothie wins.)

We see the sun shining on the last weekend before school starts and decide to spend the afternoon floating — just the three of us, two of us smaller than the paddles we wield — in a canoe down the Colorado River.

We add an extra piece of chocolate to the s’mores we roast on a last-minute camping trip, or start one more episode of “Project Runway” when we really should be going to bed.

Julian was nothing if not one of my biggest YOLOs. Fittingly, since the day he was born, he’s added a joie de vivre to my experience on this earth.

Now that we get to do it together, and the joy that comes with all that YOLO-ing seems multiply by the day.

The day before his birthday last month, he and his brother joined me on my first house-hunting adventure.

All told, I saw six houses.

That afternoon, I put in an offer on one of them.

God willing, we’ll close on it next month.

A house that will shelter them as they grow into adolescents, teens and young men. My own nest to comfort me through whatever life holds in the next decade. A home base for all of us to nurture one another, our creativity, our ambitions.

A place to sort out the kind of life we want to lead when we only live once.


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