Walking through the woods behind our house the other day, this caught my eye:
It was everywhere. New growth springing from limbs and earth…and my children.
It’s funny how spending time in the natural world not only energizes and restores us, but also helps us remember. Being in that moment, air rich with wet underbrush and soon-to-burst buds, I was suddenly so aware of how the change in seasons is also a call to stop. And notice.
My Noah turned 10 a few weeks ago. 10. I think I’ve avoiding writing here since then because I knew I would have to say something about this milestone, and, well, I just wasn’t ready. Each year on my kids birthdays, I write them a letter. I have each letter for each year tucked away, a gift they will receive bundled on their 21st birthdays. I shared my first letter to Elizabeth here, and at the time, thought I would do the same with Noah’s letter.
Except I realized that at 10, his letters are no longer mine to share. Something significant happened when my first born hit double digits. As I wrote the words to accompany his entry into this new phase of childhood, I was struck by how much of my wirting was centered around the notion of watching Noah becoming the person he was meant to be. More than sweet sentiments of the passing year, more than hopes and dreams for his future or reminiscing his first nine years, I found myself writing about the joy I am experiencing simply seeing him explore who he is. And who he is, and how he decides to share that with the world, well, I think that is for him to decide. From each year forward, the letters I write him will be tucked away as always, but instead of feeling like they are mine to read, it feels more like I’m simply guarding these observations and words of love until they are turned over to their rightful owner.
And this left me in a quandary. How do I do justice to the 10th birthday of my baby boy, without simply reprinting that letter (which I always feel like sucks the best words out of me for each birthday). How?
I go back.
Locked in a bathroom with white tile and blue walls, I took the pregnancy test. It was late August, 1998. I was 19. The test was positive.
Flash forward eight months. I am in a hospital bed, crying and pushing and feeling exhausted. I told my mom I could. Not. Do. This. But I did.
I won’t say the moment Noah came out that everything changed. My love for him was instant and fierce, but my understanding of the depth of mothering came in pieces over the next five—or ten—years. I was 20 years-old when I brought him home. And we, in so many ways, raised each other.
There is no person on earth that I feel as tied to as Noah. It is as if a piece of my soul was placed into my womb when he was created. Not that my other two children feel less a part of me. They don’t. It’s just that there is something so familiar about Noah’s mind, about his heart, that makes me understand we are woven together in uncommon ways.
While I have long loved how his curious mind and abstract way of discovering the world brings me back to those moments of my own childhood, I also know they have served up a desire for me to guard every second of his growth. In doing so, I over-analyze, hyper-concern, and generally get caught in a trap of parenting doubts.
Like a mirror, he has reflected this too.
Recently, while walking down the hill that leads into our town, I took time to simply notice my surroundings. I listened to the few song birds that had already returned from their winter homes. I felt and heard the wind sweep across my fingers, the rustling of leaves still clinging to the now snow-free ground. I saw the clouds move east through the sky. In the distance, the ice was shifting in the bay. It was subtle, not something I could visibly recognize. No, it was more a feeling; one that I noticed only because I was paying attention.
And it hit me.
That is what parenting at this age is all about: noticing. So I’ve spent the last weeks doing just that. I listen to the words that flow so readily from Noah’s mouth. I watch his face, taking in old expressions and new ones. I laugh to myself as he tries out new fashion, new phrases, new ways to walk. He’s exploring his identity. He’s trying on different hats (which, apparently, must be worn sideways).
Freeing myself from the attachment to how my mothering will shape the being he is to grow into, I suddenly am able to sit back and just enjoy my boy. As he is. In this moment.
10. It’s a huge leap from babe in arms to eight years away from high school graduation. Soon will come the days when friends and activities will replace the desire to curl up beside me with a good book. But for now, for this moment, 10 is a beautiful age, one where the hard work of tantrums and diapers and sleepless nights are distant memories, and the awe of discovering who this person—this person who was born from my body—truly is. What a gift.
*You can find me going on (and on) about spring in the great north country right here.
** You can find me writing about everything from crafting (which often includes wine corks) and food to um, all that other mama-related stuff over at the newly hatched Cluck and Tweet, a website trying to be find the joy (and sometimes sarcastic laughter) in all things domestic.