You’re Ten Years Old, Just Like That

Balthazar was the first baby with whom I ever spent a lot of time. When he arrived, nearly two weeks late I might add, he was one of the first babies I had ever held. When the doctor put him on my chest for the first time, I remember marveling that he had eyebrows, eyelashes, chubby little hands. “It works,” I thought to myself as I reviewed all the small details of his face and body. “This pregnancy thing works!”

I knew from the time Balthazar was born that he would bring me important people into my life. As I lay there dazzled by the fact that my newborn son had eyelashes, a tongue, ten fingers and toes, I thought to myself, “This child will bring me the most wonderful people.” And, to this day, he has. 

I had never diapered a baby before him, nor had I ever heard of sleep schedules, teething, or reflux. I knew nothing of the job I had signed up for. And it showed. It’s a good thing babies can’t fire their moms because my on the job performance, for the first few years at least, was rocky at best. But we got into a groove, he and I, learning each other one foible at a time. We were new together, learning how to raise each other, neither of us particularly good at it but both willing to learn.

It wasn’t until Balthazar had a disastrous kindergarten year that had us switching him out of a private school we had worked hard to get in to, that he and I really found our groove. Prior to that, I had always looked for ways to make motherhood easier on me. I had wanted the hard stuff to stop being hard. But watching a six-year-old combust under the scrutiny of misguided educators brought out the mama bear in me. It made me want to step up. I had failed him so miserably by choosing that school for him in the first place. I wanted to make up for it.

So I made it my mission to understand this hard to understand child. As it turned out, when I simply listened to him, he wasn’t so hard to understand. When I stopped dreading the hard stuff and wishing he were different, easier, less quirky, more user friendly, he turned out to be all of those things. He flourished in his new school. He flourished at home. He had been labeled as quirky, but really wasn’t at all. He was just a kid, too young to be labeled anything at all.

His third grade teacher referred to him as a lover. “I don’t think his classmates know,” she said during parent/teacher conferences, “What deep and big feelings he has.” He wears his heart on his sleeve. He feels all the feels there are in the world. He’s offended by trash talking during sports, but wants to fit in. Sarcasm hurts his feelings, which is tough having a mother like me.

He’ll make a great husband someday. But until then, he’ll get his heart stomped on over and over again. He’ll go through life, feeling all the feels, trying not to internalize them. No one will know what a lover he is. No one except me.

I think the hardest part of motherhood isn’t the sleepless nights holding an infant nor is it the constant question of what to make for dinner. The hardest part of motherhood is feeling things on behalf of your children. Childhood is like a movie parents know the end of. We know it will end just fine. But my god, there’s the teenage years before the happy ending.

Today, Balthazar turns 10. “Double digits!” he exclaimed as he ran through the house early this morning in search of gifts and balloons.  He’s on his way.

There will be highs and lows and wisdom and tutors and soccer games and tested boundaries and interest in stuff I stuff I don’t understand. There will be teachers that don’t get him, subjects in which he flourishes, skills he never knew he had, confidence gained and lost, and a whole host of feelings he won’t know where to place.

I’m still learning, failing, succeeding, trying to listen to this wise child of mine. He says things that blow my mind. I wonder how his brain could be so mature. He does things that blow my mind. I wonder how the same child could be so immature. I’m still dazzled by his eyebrows, lashes, his no longer chubby hands. It seems like just yesterday we were figuring each other out. And now, just like that, he’s ten.  Double digits. He’s on his way.

In a blink of an eye he’ll be 12, 14, 18. In ten years he’ll be twenty, well into his college career. I’ll scratch my head again, wondering how it all went so fast.

And before I know it, he’ll be a dad of his own infant child. He’ll marvel at his creation, a dazzling little person complete with its own brows and lashes. He’ll say to himself, “It works. It really works!” And I’ll look at my then grown child and think to myself, “But you just turned 10.” Just like that.

August 28th, 2017. 11:00 am. Los Angeles, California. 859 words.

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