Recently, I bought a package of balloons for a science experiment, and the very presence of these balloons, bouncing around the house, has reduced the kids into noun-limited toddlers (waking up, pointing and shouting “balloon!” and pouncing on the floating orbs).
“Wow, they’re really ramped up over those balloons,” I told Dan one night, wincing as balloon-batting bodies crashed into each other.
And then we laughed, because really, of all the things these kids will someday become ramped up over, I’m highly comforted that buoyant latex still makes the list.
You see, Col just turned 10, and I’m stockpiling evidence that everything’s going to be OK. Maybe it’s the double digits or the decadeness or the fact that more than half of his childhood has poofed away in a cloud smoke of memories, and it seems inevitable that this second half will include fewer, well, balloons.
I woke up with a panic knocking around my heart. It was like one of those anxiety dreams where you’re about to teach a class except, whoops, you’re wearing a Shirley Temple wig and forgot your pants ... but it was actually this notion that I wanted to be surrounded by small people forever, but, whoops, I forgot to have more children.
And really, I only ever wanted these two exact children. But I had no idea back when I was leaned up against a tree at the park, Rose clamped to my breast and Col toddling off to stick his starfish hands in some dog’s jowly mouth, how quickly they would accumulate years to their bodies, like accessories, like geological layers. I had no clue that the artifacts of their childhoods – board books, tiny knitted hats, baby teeth, mispronounced words – would chunk off into mental midden piles I’m left to curate.
Getting personal information out of Col is a tentative business, but his main currency of communication remains the four-limbed, wrap-around morning snuggle. This very morning, he proclaimed sleepily, “I love you and your husband,” and yet I still haven’t found the conversational key to unlock an unfettered sharing. At 10, he’s stepping into new independent territory. I can’t kiss him in front of his friends. Last fall, he went on a two-night trip with a friend’s family and he still refers to it like some poignant symbol of liberation, the way some people will always regard Rosa Parks’ bus ride.
Around any family birthday, I find myself feeling that we’ve reached such a lovely intersection of our four collective lives that I could settle in right here for a long time, feeling a tiny bit beleaguered but mostly incredibly lucky.
And yet (Didn’t you expect an “and yet?”), there is joy in this inching forward, in the way Col and Rose are becoming more of themselves, like protagonists in a book whose character gets more revealed over time, whom you love with a deeper, more complex understanding as the chapters progress. And to spend too much time lingering over their bygone childhoods would be to miss the sun shining fiercely on our lives right now. This will always be true.
Col and I recently took a field trip to the Animas Air Park, a small private airport where we like to troll around, Col pointing out high wing singles and other notables. He indulged me briefly in some hand-holding and then pointed at the small, yellow plane descending.
“That’s extra loud, probably a 12-seater,” Col said.
We watched the plane bounce out of the sky, rolling out a perfect landing, 12 exact seats revealed.
I think about how I want connection through expression, through feelings, through “hold my hand and tell me everything.” But, as usual, my children’s personalities are not for me to orchestrate so that every interaction falls under a heading I’ve pre-approved. Rather, I get to stand by as they lift off and soar, as they come in for landings, sometimes shaky and awkward, sometimes crashing. But this connection – me and my 10-year-old son gazing into the blue Colorado sky – is real and true and blessed and now.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.