Why does this keep happening to me --- these kids, and the shock of how they INSIST on growing older when I’m not looking???
Kellen, I’m not quite sure how you snuck this one by me …. But you turned TEN this week! I am alternately horrified, and thrilled, that you are turning into such a nice young man. (But secretly, horrified at the thought my little boy is not so little any more.)
Yours was the pregnancy that proved God has his own timeline. Yours was the pregnancy that stunned us beyond words. So stunned, in fact, that I almost didn’t believe it was really happening until it was time to go to the hospital and deliver you. Yes, I gained 60 pounds and yes, the ultrasound showed there was a baby in there ….. but how could I be sure? Maybe it was just a tumor, or something. Seriously? After all those years of trying …. Pregnant???
Yours was the labor that refused to start on its own, and that then wouldn’t end. I say even now, at the age of 10, you’d still be in there if you could. Two weeks past due, and you had no intention of coming out and greeting the world, let alone your parents and older sister.
Finally, after being at the hospital two days, on meds to induce labor, not sleeping for over 36 hours, with the slowest-progressing labor ever known to mankind, the doctor asked what did we want to do …… turn off the IVs, get some rest, and try again the next morning? Or have a c-section? I replied, “I don’t care if you pull this kid out of my nose …. I’m tired, and I want it over with.” And so, a calm, controlled half hour later, you finally arrived. Fat, wrinkled, adorable.
Kellen, birth photo, March 25, 1998
You were the lucky one. We had already gone through all the newborn trials and tribulations on your sister, fairly recently. So you got none of the new-parent jitters or anxiousness; no parenting by trial and error. Actually, by the time you arrived, we were so exhausted that we must have seemed like the most laid-back parents on the planet. We had a newborn, and a 13-month old. We were thrilled, sure, but truth was, we were just too tired to worry about much.
Despite that, we loved you without measure, and still do.
I thought it was adorable that you were the fattest baby on the planet.
Kellen, age 4 months
And the smiliest. (When you weren’t crying and screaming and pitching a holy fit, that is, until I tossed my smug, superior parenting skills out the window and gave you a pacifier just to stop the screaming this kid screams all the time for goodness sake I just can’t take any more make it stop!!) But usually you were the smiliest.
Kellen, age 8 months
And although these were busy times, I still thought you were the cutest little boy on the planet. How could anyone not want to just squeeeeeeeeeze those precious little raccoon cheeks???
Halloween, 1999, age 1
Slowly, you started turning from a toddler into a little boy. Truthfully, I wasn’t too happy about it. I mean, sure, now you were a lot more fun, and I could see your personality traits starting to veer towards typical “little boy” interests.
You were perfectly happy making a mess. Toys, blocks, mud, food; it didn’t matter. Pictures like this one are especially dear to me, because the truth is, you ate like a bird (still do!), trying to prove to me that small children can survive on air. I love the photos that show evidence I actually do feed you, since Lord knows your scrawny little chicken legs and concave chest seem to say otherwise.
Kellen, age 2
And you were, are, always have been, and most likely always will be, a true child of the outdoors. Nothing made you happier and your joy was infectious. Still is.
Summer 2000, age 2
See what I mean?
Kellen, age 3
One of the things I love best about you is your ability to switch back and forth between being a rough and tumble boy, to being a sweet kid who would sit on his mother’s lap, to being the kind of kid who can play well with others, whether it be outside games involving sunshine and fresh air, or inside games involving army men and fort-building. You are truly a go-with-the-flow, agreeable little guy and I believe it will serve you well in life.
Kellen, 3rd Birthday, 2001
*MOST* of the time, I can count on you to do what I ask without complaint or attitude, although you are getting a little cheekier as you get older. Sometimes lately I want to take you by the arm and warn you, “Hey, you’re fixing to make things a whole lot harder for yourself” ….. and sometimes I have to turn away because your smarmy comments and “Cut your nose off to spite your face” streak comes straight from my DNA. I don’t know whether to shudder or laugh when I see it right coming right back at me, from son to mother. Your sister started developing her “pre-teen” attitude about age three …. Yours, sadly, is just starting to rear its ugly head.
Summer 2002, age 4
I was so worried when at age 4 I enrolled you in all-day Pre-Kindergarten at our local public school. You looked so tiny, what was I thinking? Sending you away from me all day???
Summer, 2002, age 4
I needn’t have worried. You loved school, loved making new friends, loved learning, and loved having your creativity and imagination fostered. Too young for all day school? Hardly.
Halloween, 2002, age 4
I do look back on these photos, however, and wonder where the time has gone. Wonder where the little boy who was content to sit in my lap for hours and watch tv, drinking his chocolate milk and twirling his hair, has gone.
October, 2003, age 5
Mainly I wonder if I’ve done enough, or done well enough, these first ten years. Have your father and I taught you the lessons we want you to learn? Have we been patient enough, and fun enough, and empathetic enough, and creative enough, and firm enough?
Summer, 2004, age 6
Summer, 2004, age 6
Will you remember the first half of your childhood as one filled with adventure and excitement and security and love? Will you remember parents who took time to play with you and teach you and guide you? Who found every single dinosaur picture you drew fascinating, and who took the time to pretend with you in the forts that you built? Parents who never missed a practice, or a game? Parents who were always available to help with homework, or play a game of basketball in the driveway, or look up shark facts on the computer?
Kellen, 7th Birthday, 2005
Florida, July 2005, age 7
Probably not, because those parents don’t seem to exist in our household. We love you beyond measure, and want to do anything we can to help you succeed, but we’re human, too. Some days we are tired and don’t want to play catch, and some days we have to cook dinner instead of playing yet another game of Boggle or Yahtzee. Some days, to be completely honest, I don’t understand your math homework, or am just not in the mood to watch another skateboard trick. Those days, I worry about what failures we seem to be as parents, and whether love will be enough.
Kellen, 8th Birthday, 2006
So I guess for now, we’ll just cross our fingers and say our prayers every night that we’re doing an OK job. Not perfect, no matter how hard we try, but at least good enough.
Memorial Day, 2007, age 9
When I look at these photos of you, and especially this most recent photo of you on your 10th birthday, and see the handsome, smiling, confident, caring, friendly, kind young man you’re turning into, I have a warm feeling inside that at the very least, we’re getting the LOVE part right.
Kellen, 10th Birthday, March 2008. And yes, those are toothpicks we are lighting. Because not only did he get store-bought cupcakes instead of a real cake, I didn't even realize until two minutes before this picture that I was out of candles. Don't you wish all your friends were as classy as we are????
Cold hard cash. The best gift of all.
I hope you always feel it too, buddy. But in the meantime, could you maybe start eating a little more? I’m afraid you’re going to shrivel up and blow away before the next birthday.