I wasn’t going to write another post like this because too many are like this. But some days I look at my kids and I’m overcome. They’re taller. At 10 my son no longer looks like a little boy. He’s something in between now, and every day he amazes me with this new maturity, this new level of knowledge that allows me for thirty seconds to feel as if I’ve done something right in parenting. Then just as quickly he switches back to barely being contained in his own skin. I swear he’d jump out of it if he could. He’s still the boy I remember who wants hugs and plays with action figures and jumps on his bed. He still needs to be reminded to change his underwear. He still doesn’t listen when I tell him not to hang on the banister. And he still looks at me when I’m using my serious voice and lets out the kind of burp only a gaggle of ten-year-old boys can appreciate, then fans it away.
Sometimes seeing him walk across the yard with a longer mop on his head and broader shoulders, seeing him laughing with his friends, seeing him take rare initiative, it makes me realize how far we’ve come. He picked up litter from the yard and threw it away, without prompting. When he gets mad, he cools off in his room for ten seconds, this child who used to sink his teeth into me and not let go. His sister is two and half years younger and in second grade. It’s been a tough year for her. Second grade was a tough year for him. I remind him of that, tell him to be considerate of her feelings. “Yeah, second grade sucked.”
“Watch your mouth,” I say.
“It did.” He may not be able to pinpoint exactly why, but he’s certainly been able to console a moody sister. I’ve caught him just being there for her, sitting quietly with her, hand on her back. He gets it.
For her the first half of the year was rocky, just as I remember his second grade year was. Afternoons of crying and yelling and more crying and not many reasons why. I worried about how much she sat doing nothing. Couldn’t she do something? I walked on eggshells not knowing what would set her off. I remember feeling the same way with my son two years ago. Somehow I still didn’t have enough patience for her. I offered games to play, stories to read, but she never liked my ideas. Homework was an eight-letter word.
It feels like our rocky days are smoothing over now. No emotional bombs wait to go off. Suddenly my little helper is back. She’s smiling again, playing school and assessing my reading. She skips everywhere. She stops to kiss me before she runs up the stairs. She took the reins on a school project and she had really good ideas. And I look at her and still see a bit of little girl in her face, but she’s growing too. How did she get to be so big?
While I was so busy being annoyed and exhausted, dumbstruck and distraught over what’s been going on the past few months, my kids knew what they were doing. It’s all been normal. They were growing, inside and out.
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