I am considering having the words relax, everything is OK, tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. Heres why:
Raising children is like this wild road trip. There are these long stretches where nothing seems to change. Youre flying down the Interstate of Parenthood on cruise control, driving and wiping noses in your sleep. Then you suddenly descend into the blooming desert, where platter-sized flowers unfurl on strange spiny plants. Tortoises haul themselves over rocks and bright birds paint rainbows in the sky. You slow down, not wanting to miss a single, breathtaking moment.
This is just to say that Col, 6, started reading. And by reading, I mean sounding words out. And by words, I mean one syllable, phonetic, three-letter words. And its so strange because the last thing I remember was inching down the highway, crisscrossing the country for months while Cols peers were speeding past us, waving their Easy Reading books out the window. Id tighten my fingers on the wheel, helping Col sound out words like C - A - T. Cookie! hed guess haphazardly. Cottontail? Crawdad? hed venture, completely uninterested. And Id sigh audibly, exhaling my own fears into the charged air, when really, everything was OK, I just needed to relax.
Youd think Id know better by now, that Id remember that children walk the most zigzagging, spirally path; they hopscotch forward then tumble backward. Its hard to place them on a continuum, to locate them; they are not fixed points. For example, Rose is fiercely brave except when shes burying her head in my leg because someone said hi to her. Col is an extrovert who loves to be home puttering among his rocks and shells.
Cols foray into reading is still so new that every time he translates a page of text into spoken word, my heart swells and crashes on the shore of my motherly soul. Ive been known to clap and cheer at the end of a hard-won sentence like a sports fan whose underdog team is trouncing the competition.
And really, its as normal and unremarkable as a baby rolling over, which if I remember right, unleashed a similar fountain of joyful tears about 5½ years ago. And yet, like all new things, this novelty will go the way of every milestone, fading into the murky memory soup of stained onesies and broken baby monitors.
Cols bike riding, which was headliner news last summer, is now just normal life. Its hard to believe that watching his small body pedal down our street once felt like a flock of geese lifting off in my chest. Now, I find myself tapping my feet impatiently because Col has dismounted his bike to study the physics of rocks descending into puddles of snowmelt and were late for school.
Next up: swimming. If you see me in the pool clenching my teeth and white-knuckling a kickboard, please remind me to relax because Im pretty sure everythings going to be just fine.
Rachel Turiels column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Read her blog, Growing children at 6512 feet, at http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.