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2014 January 17
by Rachel Turiel



The most mystical and cryptic part of parenting is this passage of time, the way children accumulate years to their very person, like accessories, like geological layers. I’m always so blindsided. What? Another birthday? because, although life with children keeps getting better—it truly does—I have also felt, at least 300 times in the past year: this place is good. I could stop and rest here awhile.

But that is never to be. The children are always inching forward, becoming more of who they are, while urging their parents, like very small zen masters, to get with the warp speed program of impermanence.


This is all on my mind because Col turned nine last week. Nine is one of those ages that just a few years ago felt like the other side of the world, parentally speaking. A place where children become unrecognizable, startling versions of their former selves, where parts of them I couldn’t bear to part with get tossed to the sea of oh-that-was-back-when-I-was-eight.

But of course it’s not like that. Thankfully, the daily pace is slow enough that each chaotic, messy, loud hour leads to the next in the string of regular life, taking us systematically, tick-tick-tick, to places like nine. These childhoods move like a conveyor belt unspooling so slowly you barely notice. Except, these days I do notice. But only because of where I’ve been. Nine years ago there was a blue-eyed baby; nine years from now a man-child will prepare to leave home. A whisper of truth circles my head when Rose climbs in my lap. It says: today these legs are yours for the squeezing, someday not. This is time, happening. The conveyor belt, moving. Everything, everything, feels time sensitive, the definition of which is: only relevant or applicable for a short period of time.


Col, at nine, wears a watch, and checks it periodically, like he’s got somewhere to go. I can no longer tell him I need to be alone for half an hour and then amble out of my room a vague forty minutes later. He creates art everyday, sketching airplanes and ships and archers, and I wish I had a way to tell him to hold fast to this talent, even as childhood slips away. He whistles continuously, loudly, in a way that could grate on you if you forgot the simple, lucky truth that it means he is here.


Col’s shelf is covered with his tools and experiments. Some are sludged with sediment or choked with seeds, some glow with the bright red liquid of dissolving cough drops. He is so much of what I am not, I am compelled to leave him a wide berth to be himself, while I observe like an anthropologist in a foreign village. (I just found him pouring a glass of water down the sink, watching, quietly and rapt, its pattern of draining).

His kindness challenges me to be kinder. When Col spontaneously decided to donate half of his Maria’s Bookstore birthday gift certificate to his sister, my heart gasped, first in protest, you don’t have to, honey! And then in relief, for getting out of my own way to let kindness be. Col is quiet and thoughtful, and has already mastered what the Buddhists say is the path to enlightenment: having few preferences. When selecting a DVD for Family Movie Night, Col and Dan are conspicuously quiet while Rose and I opinionate passionately.


Col seems to have miraculously outrun his preemie past. Only 20% of babies born at 25 weeks have no lasting problems. I don’t even know what constitutes a lasting problem anymore. (Two doctors have joined his pediatric office in the past couple years and we haven’t even met them. Used to be, we’d amble regularly down those carpeted halls balancing an oxygen tank, Rx’s for inhaled steroids, and my own worried heart).

All that remains is that Col seems to have an unusually great need for snuggles. Perhaps he’s making up for those first four months sleeping alone in the NICU, while one mile away my alarm woke me in the night. I’d sleepily attach the breast pump fittings, flipping the switch from low to high until it revved like a racecar. My two pound son would flash in my mind: skin like parchment under a sprawl of tubes and wires, hulking machines crowded around his incubator, saving his life continuously. And I would pray, deep in the night, in the only way I knew how: Please let him be okay. Please let him be okay. Please let him be okay. 


I am grateful, so grateful.

Happy birthday beautiful nine year old.


Your Mama

33 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    January 20, 2014

    I am without words, tears in my eyes. Yet it’s simple to say, Happy Birthday, Col!

  2. Aunt Jan permalink
    January 20, 2014

    Beautiful. And so is he. <3

  3. Christy permalink
    January 20, 2014

    How does this happen? How am I wondering one day, “will this toddler ever not want to be carried everywhere?” to having my heart broke a little seemingly days later when he demands to walk himself everywhere.
    Nine?!? Brings tears to my eyes. Just the thought.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 21, 2014

      How does this happen, indeed.

  4. Marlene permalink
    January 20, 2014

    Such joy. Your gratitude is tangible, and his kindness is a marvel. Temperament is the most interesting thing, and parenting is a great ringside seat to watch it all unfold.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 21, 2014

      Yes, temperment. Isn’t it amazing to look back through the years and the developmental changes and see that the temperment is basically the same.

  5. Baba permalink
    January 20, 2014

    I am so grateful too for Col and you and Rose and Dan! Love you so much Col, looking forward to many more snuggles.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 21, 2014

      We need some extra arms for snuggles, particularly between the hours of 6am – 8am.

  6. January 20, 2014

    it is not fair to make me messy-sob at work! that beautiful, beautiful boychild of yours. oh, how he touches so deeply the lives of those who know him. such love to you, mama, and blessings blessings blessings on alla your sweet heads. xoxoxo

  7. Valeta permalink
    January 20, 2014

    and to these observant true depths, such joy awakens! xx

  8. Andrea permalink
    January 20, 2014

    Miracles do happen.

  9. January 20, 2014

    Nine years old! I somehow missed that he was eight. Blessings to Col in his tenth (!) year! xox

  10. janie permalink
    January 20, 2014

    I am so grateful too. He is such a beautiful being.

  11. Bree permalink
    January 20, 2014

    I love this kid and I’ve never even met him — he’s so near and dear to my unschooling heart as the picture of true freedom in learning.

    And those snuggle needs?? Oh my. My 10 1/2 year old STILL loves the snuggle time. The other night he had a bad dream and came into my room. Cuddled up close to me, his arm around my shoulder, his face buried in my neck, I suggested after about ten minutes that he head back to bed. His response? “Not yet. Please. I love this.”

    Savor. Savor. Savor. :-)

  12. brenda permalink
    January 20, 2014

    Happy birthday to a wonderful young man! Blessings on his day and next year!

  13. January 20, 2014

    That second picture of Col by himself took my breath away. You terrified me with the thought of him being 18 in another nine short (!) years. And I think he’s outrun his preemie past because of that pure mountain air and loving parents. He is so zen.

    Also, your comment about Rosie’s legs makes me think of my own girls – they are almost seven, and it pains my heart to think of a day when I won’t be able to pull them into my lap and squeeze their little bodies.

  14. January 20, 2014

    Col with chickens, great photo! Happy birthday to a fellow cusp person. Would enjoy an overnight woodsy in the not-too distant future!

  15. January 21, 2014

    This is so, so beautiful. My son turned nine yesterday so we are awfully in step here. I’m so aware these days of how limited this time this, this moment that feels almost unbearably golden. My daughter is 11 and my son is 9 and all of a sudden we seem like we’re on the other side of something, going down, picking up speed. And it makes me so sad, but also so glad, of course – as you say it keeps getting better and better. And yet I could definitely stay here for a while. xox

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 21, 2014

      “all of a sudden we seem like we’re on the other side of something, going down, picking up speed.”
      I feel that too. It’s like a cryptic physics equation. Doesn’t make any sense, but absolutely true.

  16. Melissa permalink
    January 21, 2014

    oh my. such a beautiful tribute to love and parenting and your (big) boy.

    Leeor is with you on savoring these fleeting moments with the kids at this age (almost 6, 3.5, 3 mos!).

    Is it weird I dreamed of you–of your whole family–last night? You looked fab, btw (: I think I must be wanting something different now that I am back at work, my baby 3 mos old today, my own breast pump whirring in my office. Hmmmmm.

    So glad Col is one of the healthy 20%!!! Love that. Happy birthday to him and to you! xo

  17. Ellen permalink
    January 21, 2014

    Its not just lucky that Col has been in the fortunate 20%; you and Dan have given him the peaceful, happy, and loving start to his life that is even more helpful to preemies than to full-term kids. Just all the reading that you’ve done, as opposed to television and computer games, has helped Col’s brain develop without the attention deficit problems that are particularly common with former preemies.
    And one more miracle: that you are chronicling this story so beautifully so that it is out in the world for so many readers. Thank you!

  18. January 21, 2014

    I’ve been away from the internets/blog world for a bit, and when I return, I get to read this. What a lovely gift. Happy birthday, little man. (You have a very talented Mama.)

  19. Andrea permalink
    January 21, 2014

    Wait, I had to come back again to say…

    Didn’t he JUST turn eight? How time flies.

  20. Rachel permalink
    January 21, 2014

    So beautiful to read. Happy Birthday to your little man. I gotta go snuggle my kiddos now.

  21. Alanya permalink
    January 22, 2014

    I forwarded this post to so many people!

  22. January 22, 2014

    Oh Rachel, this post moves me so much that I had to come back to it several times before being able to make an articulate comment.

    Sometimes I think that Col’s beginnings as a preemie have allowed him to keep the wisdom, the deep sense of wonder and the empathy that all newborns carry into this world, and that most of us forget while growing up.

    He is quite unique and endearing in many other ways, too :o) Happy birthday Col, and enjoy the beautiful Colorado light! It suits you so well.

  23. Chi-An permalink
    January 23, 2014

    Tee-hee. I had almost the exact same reaction when my son turned 9 a little over a year ago. “Huh. You’re nine. In another nine years you’ll be… 18!!! AAAAAAH!”

    This year, we hit the double-digits and suddenly he’s definitely a tween. Sigh. Still hugs me and calls me Mommy, though, as long as it’s not in front of his friends. At school it’s “See ya, Mom!” but when I come home in the evenings there’s a wild “MOMMY!” accompanied by a charging 10-year-old, closely followed by a skipping 7-year-old.

  24. Molly permalink
    January 23, 2014

    Happy Birthday, precious Col.

  25. Mindi permalink
    January 23, 2014

    I am crying, thank you for sharing…… I love you. And Col.

  26. January 26, 2014

    Happy birthday, Col!

  27. February 5, 2014

    Oh your boy, your words…my heart. Wow. Just wow.

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