My boys, they're BOYS now. Six and ten. Their birthdays passed, bookending the middle week in February with a sprinkled rainbow cake and a chocolate cake and best friends and grandparents. Balloons and a treasure hunt for Sprout. The arcade, the pool, a movie, and a sleepover for Bean. We've made it. We're beyond the beyond of early childhood. They pack their own changes of clothes for the beach; carry their own backpacks.
It does and it doesn't get easier, the older they get.
When they were babies, toddlers, preschoolers, the demand was high for every single moment, yet the moments themselves were small: A digger! A yellow dog! The injustice of mittens in winter. The fury of being asked to eat broccoli. The complexity or simplicity of falling asleep.
Now it is the complexity of being alone. The discovery of self. The absolute of independence. The hunger for protection. The need to stand out, or to fit in. Best friends, secrets, multiple choice homework assignments, and the fury of having to fold one's own laundry.
Bean hit double digits. The half way mark between now and when he'll take off into the wide orbit of his own life. Sometimes in the morning on the weekend he'll climb into bed with me and tell me about his inventions. Futuristic cars with self-generating motors, and houses with secret walls. Mommy, he says, do you know? And then he'll launch in, my mind trailing his. We're in the era of homework, cello practice, weekend sleepovers, nights when his mind spins and he can't fall to sleep. A week ago Bean fried everyone eggs. Perfect, crispy, with just enough fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. He walks to the five and dime around the corner for milk. He reads everything within reach.
Sprout became a big kid this year. Looking back at last year's birthday I still see the toddler in him. Now it's gone, and in it's place is this boy full of muscle and movement and song. Every waking second he's singing or joking or yelling. He can throw a mean frisbee, straight and far. He practices dribbling a basketball on the front walkway, and wants a hoop for the street. For him, everything is drama. His eyes wide in mock despair or bright with glee. He got a pocket knife for his birthday. Recently he's learned to strike matches; carefully lighting the candles for the dinner table every night. This morning he made pancakes with T: pouring and flipping every one.
The weekdays go by in a rhythm and blur. School and work. We do the same things. We do different things. We spend our days mostly apart. We come together in the evenings, hungry, excited, tired, impatient, eager, quiet.
As we gather around the dinner table at night they tell us stories about their days. This ritual we started so many years ago. A moment of pause and grace before we begin, then all of us there, talking, passing food. Mommy, Bean asks, what was the most interesting thing that happened to you today? He doesn't have perfect table manners yet, but he knows how to ask questions with weight. Sprout tries to remember to listen, to wait his turn. He tells exuberant stories. Finishes dinner quickly. Climbs into my lap. Always this.
On the weekends there is bacon. Good coffee. Sleeping in. Modern Love in the NY Times. A trip to the library. Some kind of adventure. Maybe a bike ride. Still, each of us craves time apart. There's not enough time for all the laundry, errands, things that pile up from the week. So then it's push & pull. Give & take.
Here we are.