Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Last First Day

"Ward Christopher!!"

I hollered up the stairs for what felt like the thousandth time...

"If you cannot stop teasing your sister, you are skipping dinner and going straight to bed tonight!  I've had it!"

During breakfast, a song plays in the cd player.  The singer croons, "And our babies never cry, and we can look you in the eye, and say, 'I'm not afraid to die-e-e-e.'"

Elliot: "What's that mean?"

Ward: "It means, he's lived a good life and so he's not afraid to die now."

I looked at him a thousand times tonight.

I thought about how little he still is, in some ways.  Relentlessly teasing his sister, still struggling to swim; he hasn't even lost a tooth.

We ran around the yard together playing hide-and-seek.

Surely, he's still little.

Every so often (although it's become a rarity now), he shows up in our room in the middle of the night, standing with red eyes and disheveled hair, and insists on crawling right in between us because he dreamt about some bad guy getting him or us.

I remember the seemingly endless nights when I wished he would JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY.

And now, he does.

Now he folds his clothes and carries dishes and takes his own showers. He jumps from high places and swims out just a little too far.

He pretends to box with his sister, but never actually throws a punch, even though she doesn't hold back.

He gives his things to younger children without a second thought.


I asked him tonight if I could cry tomorrow when I drop him off, and he shook his head.

"Would it embarrass you if I cry?"

He looked at me through the side of his eyes, and shook his head again.  He has learned to tell a small fib to preserve my feelings.

How does that happen?

And in every new skill mastered I feel a twinge of regret.

The last first reading.  The last new letter.

Tomorrow will be the last first day of 1st grade for him.

One more last first.

For weeks, he's been saying that although other kids get nervous about school, he's just excited.

Tonight, in the quiet of bedtime, he shared his innermost thoughts that only a parent gets to hear in those moments.

"I'm a little bit scared.  Mostly excited, but a little scared, too."

We've talked a lot about what this year will look like: stricter rules, structured work, longer days.

At bedtime, he prayed, "God, let me behave at school tomorrow.  Help me be kind to others and make lots of new friends."

I remember so many of these moments, preserved perfectly in my mind.

The first time I held him.

The first time he wrote his name.

His first bike.

I was there for each of those, actively encouraging him towards that last first step and even past it...

My role tonight was more of an observer.

He took his own shower, and laid out his own clothes for school.

He made his food requests for day one: biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and chili for lunch.

I hugged him and reassured him.

I promised him I'd make him a great lunch, complete with peanut butter cookies.

And that I'd do my best not to cry.

On his last first day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pre-Birthday Time

Right about this time of year, I start freaking out.

It's the "pre-birthday" time.

Not my birthday (although my own years seem to be passing ohsofast), but my son's birthday.

Six, this year.  Six.

This baby that we hoped for and prayed for and wept for.

He came.  And he stayed.

And he took our lives and shook them up and pushed them forward and took all the breath out of us.

And so, as this time approaches each year and our discussions turn to cake and invitations and a couple of special gifts, my heart begins to beat at an incredibly rapid rate and I try and fit just a little bit more into the current age.

More outings.

More snuggling.

More activities.

More sitting and staring at him and squeezing him and begging him to please stop growing.

I try and sit and listen more when he tells me about the ninja-ship-training station he's made with his Legos and I try harder to come up with creative answers to whether Lego Luke or Lego Obi Wan is really the better Jedi master.

I am more in tune with turning off distractions and giving time for him to ask me deep questions about spirituality or checkers or music.

I practice biting my tongue and giving warnings when I may have snapped on a typical day.

In short, I panic.

I find myself clutching at these weeks/hours/days/minutes with increasing desperation as my children grow and stages and ages fly by in a whirl of color, never to be visited again.

And yet, though all of my being screams for time to pleaseslowdownwontcha, I can't help but urge him on.

In the midst of it all, I find myself encouraging him to do more on his own.  Sure, you can go ahead and make that bread and crack the eggs, too.  Of course, you can cross the street, just be sure to look. Well, I think you can read that all on your own now, why don't you try.  Well, what do you think about that rule--does it seem fair?

And he continues to one-up me.  He'll bend down to help a friend while I'm getting frustrated at how long things are taking.  He'll spend entire evenings creating gifts for his baby cousin.  He'll entertain his sister by letting her ride around on his back.

He bombards us with questions.

"Why do flamingos stand on one leg?"

"How can it be fair that some people speeding get caught and others don't?"

"Does God still love Satan?"

Isn't this the bittersweet of parenting?  We cling to the past, but somehow, can't seem to stop ourselves pursuing the future.

As nostalgic as our past always is, the excitement of the 'yet to come' begs us to keep moving forward.

And although my little boy is quickly losing the "little," I think I'll still work, as often as I can, to hang on to those little moments.

I think they're the ones I will remember.

Happy 6th Birthday, Ward Christopher.  Thank you for being the first reason we were called mom and dad.  We love you so very much.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Building Cathedrals

Sometimes, when I'm out in public, someone asks me what I do for a living.

It's an innocent question, really. 

After all, much of who we are stems from what we do, and if nothing else, it allows for some polite chitchat.

So, I answer. 

"I watch children in my home and stay home with my kids."

And then comes the look.

Glazed eyes, head nodding gently, benign smile.

I can practically see the wheels turning.

And for many people in this world that continues to value jobs outside the home so strongly, the idea of staying home and caring for children is truly mind-numbing.

And sometimes, it can be.

After all, the majority of my days are spent in the mundane.

Pack and unpack the travel bag. Change diapers. Start laundry. Wash dishes. Correct behavior. Read stories. Arrange play dates. Prepare meals.

And the craziest thing of all?

All of these mundane tasks must be repeated ad nauseam. Many times a day. Everyday. For years.

But, friends, there is joy to be found in the everyday.

Buried in that soil are beautiful flowers and vegetables that need just a little tending to flourish.

Hidden in those stories read time and time again is a child on the verge of discovering the world of books.

Unearthed below the piles of dishes and laundry and dirty floors and endless meal preparation is a family walking in the door and finding peace at home despite the chaos of the world.

There is value here.

Have you heard this story?

"A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks.

The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home."

A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”

A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!"

Is the work boring, repetitive, anti-climactic?

At times, it sure is.

Some days, we crave a new project, a meal with friends, an evening among adults.

But what we do in our homes is life-giving in the most basic, literal sense.

We are giving life.

Perhaps I should respond differently the next time someone asks me what I do for a living.

"Me?  Oh, nothing much.  I'm just building a cathedral."