Ten - FamilyEducation

Ten

July 06,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Having your littlest one start kindergarten the same summer you turn forty is enough to make anyone ache at the relentless passage of time; but this year, having my first child turn a whole decade old is making me ache a little, too. Okay, a lot. I remember thinking into the future, that first year of his life, and letting my mind wander over the idea of my firstborn being ten in 2010 and it seemed so far away--a pinprick of a point in the future stretching out of sight, so small I couldn't even squint at it. Because, really, how could this tiny being--all cries and demands and tiny fingers and toes, be a decade old some day? But he is a decade old today. Ten years ago my son was born at 4:50 in the afternoon after an induced labor that seemed to go on for an eternity. He didn't want to come into the world--I am sure of this. He was already a week late, and his entry into that hospital room was slow and painful. Happy and relieved though I was to have him out of me finally, I remember feeling a tinge of sadness that new my child, who had seemed to want so badly to stay inside where it was dark and safe, was forced out in the end--and then whisked off to the NICU, away from me for hours. Sometimes I look at L. and I can see a straight line back to his birth day, clear and shining--this is who is, I think to myself. This is who he has always been. Sometimes, in the dark and worrisome and downright scary times that come from parenting a child like L., I can't see the straight line and I wonder at what point we were knocked off course. Were we heading one way and ended up some other place because of something we did? How will the future turn out? What aren't we doing that we could be doing? What could we have done, years ago, when the path was still straight and clear, that we didn't? Two weeks ago, when we were at the lake for the family reunion, Scott and I sat in the front of his cousin's boat and watched L. holding on for dear life to a round inner tube. He was being pulled along behind the boat and his face was set in a determined look we haven't seen for years. There was something about the way his cheeks were puffed out, his chin forward, his shoulders straight that reminded me of L. as a baby, crawling around our small apartment with that particular brand of earnest and intense determination that is his trademark. "He looks like he did when he was crawling," Scott said suddenly, giving voice to the exact same thought I'd been thinking. And tears sprung to my eyes--because we'd both been given a sudden glimpse into the past, because we'd both simultaneously seen the same thing in our son--like two people gazing at the same moon, and because I saw that straight line again--the one that's always been there, the line from the here and now, to L.'s beginning. This is who L. is, I told myself. This is who he has always been. L. at ten now is all about cats and catalogs and the Clone Wars and his armies of plastic soldiers and Nerf darts and poker chips and he is, as he was that first second I gazed into his face, the most complicated and amazing and breath-taking person I have ever known. Happy Birthday, L.! We love you... Wonder