Recently, I bought a package of balloons to conduct a science experiment, and the very presence of these balloons, bouncing around the house, has reduced the kids into loud, noun-limited toddlers (waking up, pointing and shouting “balloon!” and pouncing on the floating orbs).
“Wow, they’re really ramped up over those balloons,” I told Dan one night, wincing as balloon-batting bodies crashed into each other.
And then we laughed, because really, of all the things these kids will someday become ramped up over, I’m highly comforted that buoyant latex blimps still make the list.
You see, Col just turned ten and I’m stockpiling evidence that everything’s going to be OK. Maybe it’s the double digits, or the decadeness, or the fact that more than half of his childhood has poofed away in a cloudsmoke of memories, and it seems inevitable that this second half will include less, well, balloons.
I woke up recently with a panic knocking around in my heart. It was like one of those ubiquitous anxiety dreams where you’re about to teach a class except, whoops, you’re wearing a Shirley Temple wig and forgot your pants…but it was actually this notion that I wanted to be surrounded by small people forever, but whoops, I forgot to have more children.
And really, I only ever wanted these two exact children. But I had no idea back when I was leaned up against a tree at the park, Rose clamped to my nipple (her default position until age 2) and Col toddling off to stick his starfish hands in some dog’s jowly mouth, how quickly they would accumulate years to their bodies, like accessories, like geological layers. I had no clue that the artifacts of their childhoods—board books, tiny knitted hats, baby teeth, mispronounced words—would chunk off into mental midden piles I’m left to curate.
Getting personal information out of Col is a tentative business, but his main currency of communication remains the 4-limbed wrap-around morning snuggle. This very morning, he proclaimed sleepily, “I love you and your husband,” and yet I still haven’t found the conversational key to unlock an unfettered sharing. At ten, he’s stepping into new independent territory. I can’t kiss him in front of his friends. Last fall he went on a 2-night trip with his friend Mathew and he still refers to it like some poignant symbol of liberation, the way some people will always regard Rosa Parks’ bus ride.
Around any family birthday, I find myself feeling that we’ve reached such a lovely intersection of our collective four lives, that I could settle in right here for a long time, feeling a tiny bit beleaguered but mostly incredibly lucky.
And yet (didn’t you want there to be an “and yet?”), there is joy in this inching forward, in the way Col and Rose are becoming more of themselves, like protagonists in a book whose character gets more revealed over time, whom you love with a deeper, more complex understanding as the chapters progress. And to spend too much time lingering over their bygone childhoods would be to miss the sun shining fiercely on our lives right now. This will always be true.
Setting up the great rocket launch 2015. Previous rocket launch here, just to prove how fast time flies
Running to retrieve the fallen rocket.
Col and I recently took a field trip to the Animas Air Park, a small private airport where we like to troll around, Col pointing out high wing singles and other notables. He indulged me briefly in some hand-holding and then pointed at the small yellow plane descending. “That’s extra loud, probably a 12-seater,” Col said. We watched the plane bounce out of the sky, rolling out a perfect landing, 12 exact seats revealed.
I think about how I want connection through expression, through feelings, through hold my hand and tell me everything. But, as usual, my children’s personalities are not for me to orchestrate so that every interaction falls under a heading I’ve pre-approved. Rather, I get to stand by as they lift off and soar, as they come in for landings, sometimes shaky and awkward, sometimes crashing. But this connection—me and my ten year old son gazing into the blue Colorado sky, not saying much—is real and true and blessed and now.