I woke up yesterday to the stark realization that one of my children was turning ten years old. Ten. T.E.N. As in, double-digits. As in, 1/10th of a century. As in, she has probably lived with us for over half of the time she *will* live with us. I don’t know whether that makes me delirious with joy that I only have eight or nine more years of doing her laundry** and cleaning up after her and buying her underwear and cooking for her, or if it makes me weepy at the thought that in just a few more years she won’t need me to do those things for her.
Yes, I do know. Weepy.
Brayden, on the day she was born, Feb 13, 1997
On the day she was born, and they placed her in my arms, all those cheesy catch-phrases about my heart exploding with joy and love, and how I didn’t know I could be so devoted to someone so little and new …… they all came true. She was seven+, long-awaited pounds of pure bliss and happiness. Even now, sometimes I’ll go into her bedroom at night and watch her while she is sleeping and my heart will hurt a little bit with the delight and elation that SHE is my daughter.
Brayden, 1st birthday, 1998
Other times -- a lot of the time -- we make each other crazy. No one can push one another’s buttons like she and I can, or make one another more frustrated. Every lousy, crummy personality trait that I have, Brayden unfortunately got. Which, considering she is adopted, should tell you exactly where I stand on the nature v. nurture debate. Impatient, easily annoyed, easily frustrated, quick to anger; she and I are like identical twins, born 30 years apart. Which is probably why as a parent, I worry that I’m doing so much of it wrong.
Brayden, age 2, 1999
Then I watch her, and am reminded of all the wonderful character traits she has. She is caring, kind, generous, and compassionate. She has been going to a weekly ceramics class for six months and has given away every single thing she has made. Blaine says he’s running out of places to put his ceramic ducks at work. She is always kind to smaller children (as long as it’s not her brother or sister!) She often spends her allowance on gifts for other people, just because. She is constantly drawing pictures and writing stories for me to send to her friends and family in other states. It is those moments that make me hopeful that I am doing some of it right.
Brayden, age 3, 2000
Mostly, though, I worry that much like these first ten years have flown by, faster than a sonic boom, the next ten will as well. I told myself that her first few years were so chaotic because Kellen and Kendrie came along in pretty short order afterwards and there was only so much of me to go around.
Brayden, age 4, 2001
All parents with more than one small child in the house understand the feeling of just barely getting through the day intact, let alone carving out tender, glowing memories of patty-cake and peek-a-boo and long nature walks and chasing shadows and silly naptime rituals. Shoot, with three kids under the age of two in the house, my mantra became: As long as Blaine comes home from work each night and no one is BLEEDING or HUNGRY, then I have done my job.
Brayden, age 5, 2002
Seemed reasonable at the time.
Brayden, age 6, 2003
Now, though, I know. One kid or ten, those are just busy years. And although you think things will slow down once they are out of diapers, and can feed themselves, and insert their own DVD, and help pick up around the house …. The truth is, they don’t slow down at all. Because playdates with toddlers are replaced by playdates with school friends, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody replaces Barney, and you add homework and soccer practice into the mix, and girl scout meetings, and basketball, and school projects, and the million and one other things that today’s hands-on family chooses to do, and well, there you go. Put simply, time flies when we’re not looking.
Brayden, age 7, 2004
I’m afraid I’ll look up and Brayden will be headed off to college.
Brayden, age 8, 2005
Slipping through my fingers. Just like the song says.
Brayden, age 9, 2006
I want her to look back on her childhood and remember a Mom who baked cookies and brought cupcakes to school for her birthday and helped with homework. I’m worried she’ll look back and remember the Mom who spent too much time on the computer and yelled really bad words when she would trip over toys in the living room. I want her to remember a Mom who always had a sympathetic ear, and good advice. I’m worried she’ll remember the Mom who threatened to “Throw that entire karaoke system in the trash if you kids don’t quit fighting over it!” I want her to remember a Mom who set a good example with her patience, and kindness, and by not getting frustrated or angry over silly things. I have no doubt she’ll instead remember the Mom who gave all three of her children permission to call the people who park in the no-parking lanes at their elementary school “Asshole!” when we drive by each day. (But they’re only allowed to say it if we are IN our car and all the windows are rolled up. Honest. They know they can’t just yell that word willy-nilly at anyone they please. But seriously, those people ARE assholes, and you would agree if you had to walk around their cars, and around the big giant NO PARKING signs every day. I like to tell myself that ultimately, I am teaching my children that it is not OK to think you are superior to everyone else, and that the rules don’t apply to you. If you park in front of a NO PARKING sign every single day, you ARE an asshole, and that’s the truth. See? Everything can be a life-lesson if you make it one.)
Brayden, age 10, 2007
Please, Lord. Help me do a better job with these next ten years. Because the first ten just flew by, and I'm really worried that I'm messing it up, what with my impatience and frustration and shouting the word "asshole" at people, and now I've only got eight or nine years to get it right.
**I told Brayden the best birthday gift I was giving her this year was a baby step towards her independence. As in, she will be given the gift of doing her own laundry from now on. At least one load a week, to commence as soon as her laundry basket is full. Wish me luck.