You Are Once in a Lifetime

What is even happening.

There is no way — no possible way — ten years has passed since a chunk of me broke off and started wandering around on this earth apart from me.

Something happened on this day, ten years ago. In one fell swoop, my heart shattered and grew, staggered back against the wall and braced itself, captivated by the miracle of redemption and purpose, of lavender skin and buttermilk lips.

And I feel like my wrecked heart is still recovering, still shuffling back into an upright position only to be knocked back down with each passing year, every inch stretching him closer to eye level. This boy has had me, heart and soul, for a full decade now (and then some), and I am all the better for it.

I panic sometimes, when I consider my role in preparing him for the world and the world for him. I freeze solid, often in mid-lecture, because who am I to usher this brilliant, funny, affectionate child who has managed to figure much of it out on his own?

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And I freeze solid when he is difficult, and I am so sure of the kind of man we are training him to be, and he is resisting gentle correction and then not-so-gentle correction, because I think, are my words even landing? Am I failing? Am I running out of time?

So I don’t move; I can’t even blink or breathe, because this task is so great and he is so, so important and I am so uncertain, and none of the things I am sternly grumbling or declaring or shouting makes sense in the face of such heavy weight.

But I press anyway. Sometimes rightly, more often wrongly, nearly always with the whisper tugging at me, Do not fail him, and at the end of the night, every now and then, my TEN-year-old might still ask for a tuck-in.

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I made the mistake of looking through old photographs of him. After puddling onto the ground in a pool of nostalgia, I remembered those moments in the snapshots. I remembered the grand and the mundane. Birthday parties, Christmases, family vacations, along with days at the zoo, sunny afternoon walks, play date picnics with little friends.

But what the photos don’t tell you are the moments that happened in between.

His pink, plump face when they plopped him onto my chest for the first time, his tiny nose speckled with white freckles. And I knew then, through a haze of ambien and exhaustion, my life had shifted gravity; ten years later, and his pull is even stronger.

My first clear memory of motherhood, when they rolled him back into my room after the tests and dressings and measurements, he had been swaddled professionally but had somehow wriggled one hand out, his curious little finger stuck in his nose, his eyes wide and eager; ten years later, they haven’t lost that wonder.

The way he used to laugh in his sleep as an infant, a hiccup and a smile, then completely relaxing back into the deep. My mom would say he was playing with angels; ten years later, he hasn’t stopped laughing.

He was an early smiler, an early roll-over-er, an early sit-up-er, and crawler, and then walker. Despite being held constantly, even through feedings and naps and through the whole night, he was ready for the world, for adventure, for finding and leaving his mark; ten years later, he barely slows down to catch his breath.

You won’t meet a more tenderhearted boy, though he disguises that kindness in the rough-and-tumble and the wise-cracking and the joke-telling and the silly-song dancing.

He loves to laugh and to make other people laugh. He loves video games. He loves to run and sweat and go full speed. He loves a good challenge. He loves history. He loves to read. He loves to learn. He loves his sister with an openness that staggers me. He loves people, all people. Oftentimes I see all of this about him and wonder. How did I get so lucky, and how can I move out of his way?

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He began this world with eyes wide open, and my prayer is that he never loses that wonder. My prayer is that the world is ready for him.

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Happy birthday, Bug-a-roo.
You will change the world, and I am blessed to be the one to watch you do it.

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4 Comments

Filed under Parenting

4 responses to “You Are Once in a Lifetime

  1. Laura McClellan

    Dang girl. Those words are beautiful. Happy birthday, bug! He’s blessed to have you as a mama. 🙂

  2. Elizabeth Harrison

    Beautifully written…incredible young “man”…and you, my friend, are a masterpiece!

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