You held my hand last night, Trick or Treating. It wasn’t the clinging, hold-me-please, grip of your sister’s four-year-old hand. And, it wasn’t the don’t-forget-that-I-love-you-Mama, squeeze of Asher. It was a simple sliding of your palm against mine as we walked briskly through the dark, together.
This morning, All Saints Day, you’re nine.
It has been nine All Saints mornings since I laid awake in my bed, waiting for the minutes to tick by, waiting to drive to the hospital to be induced, waiting to meet you.
And here you are. Halfway to eighteen. Halfway through childhood.
You are bright and confident. You are beautiful and inspirational. You are my sweetest encourager and my most insurmountable stumbling block. You are the caller of my bluffs, the presser of my buttons, the holder of the mirror – reminding me, on so many occasions, to check my own heart.
You remind me, what it’s like to feel things so deeply that you can’t breath, that you snort milk through your nose or clutch your stomach in a fit of laughter. You remind me how it feels to be hurt, and how there are moments when despair can’t be soothed by anything but the space to lay still and bury your damp cheeks into blankets.
I see you, and I see me.
I see so many struggles, so many late nights of wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into here, as your mother. I see the failures I’ve made, the tempers I’ve lost, the words I want to suck back into my heart and protect you from.
But, I also see you and I see me, and I see us.
It’s been a long year, a summer that bled quickly into fall, and that’s now rushing us through the end of year. I see winter, in the morning frost across the field. I see another Christmas season coming and going, another entire year gobbled up into the ether.
It occurred to me, in the tumble of thoughts that I haven’t had time to express in the rush of this hectic autumn, that somewhere along the line, I saw parenthood as something I’ll one day get better at. Like, being your mother is something I’ll someday fully grasp and understand and appreciate in a slow and thoughtful way. Someday, there will be time and I’ll get it.
But then, the truth is – this is all that there is to get. This isn’t a test and there are not take-backs or do-overs. Parenthood is never a trial run.
What I’m doing, is it.
I do not get a second chance to raise you.
And, maybe more important to remember, I do not get a second chance to enjoy you – just as you are, here and now. Nine and creative, beautiful, bold, but sweet, daring, but cautious.
Nine and amazing.
Nine and sitting down beside me on the couch and asking if you can write alongside me.
Nine and carrying friend’s babies on your narrow hips, or sitting and gently rocking them to sleep.
Nine and asking me, honestly, what do I think of your layers of mismatched clothing or the ponytail you’ve pulled up over the top of your head, dangling down over your face.
Nine and holding my hand while we walk through the dark on a Halloween eve, not because you’re frightened, but because you know, and you’re reminding me, that being in something together, is better than being alone.
Happy birthday, Lila.
(And thank you.)