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Ten

Last week, I sat down for lunch with Alex. He was slurping a bowl of clam chowder at the table, all by himself. So, I slid onto the bench across from him and marveled aloud, You know, this is your very last week in single digits. Forever. This is it. After that, you’re double-digits, no turning back.

He blinked and nodded, slurped soup.

Well, unless I live to the triple digits, he said between spoonfuls, then I won’t be double any more.

Well, yes. There’s that.

Our conversation went on to discuss the people from biblical times who lived hundreds of years. To Noah, and how old he was when he started building the ark, how hard that must have been.

He told me his theory on the fall of man and how he thinks it impacted the life expectancy of humans, but in a gradual way.

This is the nature of our relationship: I present what is, he responds with what could be.  And why.

Somehow, the conversation turned back to his birthday, and how different life was ten years ago. How, ten years ago, as Christmas approached it was only Vinnie and I. We bought our tree at Home Depot and our decorations were all intact, (and somewhat boring), straight from their plastic boxes.

Life was different. We had late nights and early mornings. We had routines. We had 9-5 jobs and grocery store trips that could fit in handheld baskets. We were a family of two…jumping off a cliff into parenthood.

And on a quiet December morning, we, became a three.

Alex

At the table, I told Alex about how when he was just a couple of weeks old, he was congested. It was the coldest January I can remember, subzero into the negative twenties, and his nose was stuffed to the point that his feedings became terrible and pathetic with his desire to eat, but his inability to drink long enough between needing to pull off for air.

As a first time (re: exhausted) mom, I was at the brink of sanity.  I brought him to the bathroom of our condo, cranked up the hot water in the tub and then stripped him to his diaper and spread whatever baby-safe-vapor-type-rub came in one of my baby shower gifts, on his chest. I set him on the dryer, which was directly across from the tub, and turned with my hand on his {now slippery} body, to turn off the water, now that the room had reached sauna consistency.

He somehow wriggled, slipped, fell, right from the top of the dryer and down to my knee (which moved to catch him with a cat-like reflex that I can only attribute to motherly intuition or perhaps the years spent anticipating the ball in soccer.)

Point being, I let my newborn son fall from a dryer and caught his naked body with my knee.

I sobbed. I called my mother. I settled my shrieking baby and gave him a bottle…and he drank it.

He drank it, without needing to pull off every twenty-seconds to breathe. Because, he could.

Parenting fail. Parenting win.

It’s hard to have one without the other, since so much of parenthood is trial and error. It’s hoping for the best while working with whatever we’ve got. The sticking point is in trying to remember to appreciate the victories just as much as we curse ourselves in the fumbles.

 

This morning, Alex is on his last day in single digits.  He’s nine and on the floor under my Christmas tree, drawing a scene with a submarine. I’m remembering five years ago, when I wrote about how impossibly old he seemed, at the half decade mark. I’m remembering those first few frostbitten months in that condo, where I became someone’s mom, for better or for worse.

I’m remembering how I always thought it would somehow get easier. I would get a handle on this, this whole mothering thing.

And it does. I have grown a little more accustomed to it, with each subsequent child, as different as they each are. When things are hard and I’m tested, I can at least say, well, this is only seven, and it will pass. It did with Alex. 

But, the reality with your firstborn,  is that you’re always growing with them. And when your first turns ten, in a sense, you do too.

You’re ten years older, ten years fuller of joys and disappointments, happinesses and tears. But you’re still just as much new as you were in those first few hours, days, weeks, months, of parenthood. Your first born will always be your stumbling block, the one who reminds you, you’re not as smart or prepared for this as you think.

But, if you’re lucky, as I have been, your oldest will sit with you  and listen to your story of the time that you dropped him, but caught him, and he’ll nod with appreciation. He won’t shake his head at your bad parenting, and he won’t laugh at your foolishness (though you tried to spin the tale as a comedy). He’ll just grin and nod and say, in his matter-of-fact way, but it all turned out okay.

And so it did. And so we do.

We turn out okay, each new day.

My Alex and I.

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Writer, Photographer, Wife, Mother to four rambunctious and amazing children.

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