Friday, April 24, 2009

Noticing every minute

Walking through the woods behind our house the other day, this caught my eye:

It was everywhere. New growth springing from limbs and earth…and my children.

It’s funny how spending time in the natural world not only energizes and restores us, but also helps us remember. Being in that moment, air rich with wet underbrush and soon-to-burst buds, I was suddenly so aware of how the change in seasons is also a call to stop. And notice.

My Noah turned 10 a few weeks ago. 10. I think I’ve avoiding writing here since then because I knew I would have to say something about this milestone, and, well, I just wasn’t ready. Each year on my kids birthdays, I write them a letter. I have each letter for each year tucked away, a gift they will receive bundled on their 21st birthdays. I shared my first letter to Elizabeth here, and at the time, thought I would do the same with Noah’s letter.

Except I realized that at 10, his letters are no longer mine to share. Something significant happened when my first born hit double digits. As I wrote the words to accompany his entry into this new phase of childhood, I was struck by how much of my wirting was centered around the notion of watching Noah becoming the person he was meant to be. More than sweet sentiments of the passing year, more than hopes and dreams for his future or reminiscing his first nine years, I found myself writing about the joy I am experiencing simply seeing him explore who he is. And who he is, and how he decides to share that with the world, well, I think that is for him to decide. From each year forward, the letters I write him will be tucked away as always, but instead of feeling like they are mine to read, it feels more like I’m simply guarding these observations and words of love until they are turned over to their rightful owner.

And this left me in a quandary. How do I do justice to the 10th birthday of my baby boy, without simply reprinting that letter (which I always feel like sucks the best words out of me for each birthday). How?

I go back.

Locked in a bathroom with white tile and blue walls, I took the pregnancy test. It was late August, 1998. I was 19. The test was positive.

Flash forward eight months. I am in a hospital bed, crying and pushing and feeling exhausted. I told my mom I could. Not. Do. This. But I did.

I won’t say the moment Noah came out that everything changed. My love for him was instant and fierce, but my understanding of the depth of mothering came in pieces over the next five—or ten—years. I was 20 years-old when I brought him home. And we, in so many ways, raised each other.

There is no person on earth that I feel as tied to as Noah. It is as if a piece of my soul was placed into my womb when he was created. Not that my other two children feel less a part of me. They don’t. It’s just that there is something so familiar about Noah’s mind, about his heart, that makes me understand we are woven together in uncommon ways.

While I have long loved how his curious mind and abstract way of discovering the world brings me back to those moments of my own childhood, I also know they have served up a desire for me to guard every second of his growth. In doing so, I over-analyze, hyper-concern, and generally get caught in a trap of parenting doubts.

Like a mirror, he has reflected this too.

Recently, while walking down the hill that leads into our town, I took time to simply notice my surroundings. I listened to the few song birds that had already returned from their winter homes. I felt and heard the wind sweep across my fingers, the rustling of leaves still clinging to the now snow-free ground. I saw the clouds move east through the sky. In the distance, the ice was shifting in the bay. It was subtle, not something I could visibly recognize. No, it was more a feeling; one that I noticed only because I was paying attention.

And it hit me.

That is what parenting at this age is all about: noticing. So I’ve spent the last weeks doing just that. I listen to the words that flow so readily from Noah’s mouth. I watch his face, taking in old expressions and new ones. I laugh to myself as he tries out new fashion, new phrases, new ways to walk. He’s exploring his identity. He’s trying on different hats (which, apparently, must be worn sideways).

Freeing myself from the attachment to how my mothering will shape the being he is to grow into, I suddenly am able to sit back and just enjoy my boy. As he is. In this moment.

10. It’s a huge leap from babe in arms to eight years away from high school graduation. Soon will come the days when friends and activities will replace the desire to curl up beside me with a good book. But for now, for this moment, 10 is a beautiful age, one where the hard work of tantrums and diapers and sleepless nights are distant memories, and the awe of discovering who this person—this person who was born from my body—truly is. What a gift.

*You can find me going on (and on) about spring in the great north country right here.
** You can find me writing about everything from crafting (which often includes wine corks) and food to um, all that other mama-related stuff over at the newly hatched Cluck and Tweet, a website trying to be find the joy (and sometimes sarcastic laughter) in all things domestic.


Joy said...

I hope Noah had a very happy birthday. I recognize so many of your words in this post. My oldest was born when I was 23. I'm such a different mom now than I was then. And I especially identified with the attachment you feel toward him. I love all my kids, but there is a part of my oldest that reflect my heart and soul in a slightly more intense way.

Sus said...

cold. chills. everywhere.

you always give me such invaluable lessons in parenthood in this space, kate.

Nicole said...

Kate -
I happened to notice that you posted this at 4AM. GO TO SLEEP! You should rest easy knowing that you are truly a great mom and inspiration to the rest of us! Your family is a reflection of how wonderful you are!

Alison said...

And I will attest, first hand, what a great kid Noah is (one of my favorites) because of the great mom he has. And maybe because of her friends, too. A little. Nah, I can't even claim any of that.

Susan said...

Oh, the double digits! I remember writing my oldest boy the double digits letter - it really is something. You put it so well, the trepidation, the joys, the fears. Happy Birthday to Noah.

castaway said...

Wonderful piece ... and how I love your blog picture ... amazing ...

Sarah said...

I'm so happy you posted on my blog so that I could follow you back here. Your writing is wonderful.

I agree with Joy - there's something about my oldest that 'reflects my heart and soul in a slightly more intense way'. My second child will kill me before she's five because she's too damn cute and hilarious and my youngest is, well, he's my baby. So there's nothing taken away from the other two, it's just... different.

Woman in a Window said...

"we, in so many ways, raised each other." Now, isn't that the truth!

Wonderful boy. Ten is something altogether different. I'm finding an impending 9 something new, too.

A Little Gnocchi said...

Thank you for the photo love on my blog mostly because it brought me here to yours. I've written letters to my daughter, not for a while, she's two. Unfortunately, too many are born out of the fear I won't be here when she is grown or even just old enough to know and remember how much she is loved. While I never say this is what the letter is from, it is hard writing it, not to think about it. This post of yours was a lovely inspiration to write one for her 27th month, just in celebration of her.

Cat said...

lovely, lovely pictures!! The reflection about your mama-hood almost made me tear up :) Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Astarte said...

Happy birthday to him, and Birth Day to you! God, you look like such a baby yourself in those pictures!!!!

Josie will be ten in a couple of weeks. I'm not as freaked about ten as I think I will be about eleven. I'm enjoying sitting back and seeing who she's being these days, too.

Anonymous said...

"That is what parenting at this age is all about: noticing"

How true. I wish I had noticed every detail and recorded them in a book. It passes all to soon, this raising of our children!

Shalet said...

Wonderful post. He is a lucky boy and you are a lucky mom.

Muslim Hippie said...

I've been trying to write something befitting this post you just shared with us, but kept hitting the delete key. Why? well because what can I say to describe how wonderful you made me feel, what a great writer you are, and how you can put your feelings, love, and memories in a blank page and change it into a painting full of vibrant colors and beauty. Happy birthday to your little fella for his big milestone, and happy birthday to you for beautiful years passing creating lovely memories and more to come opening up new worlds.

Sus said...

hey i already commented on this, but love the new look!