Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Looking Forward, Looking Back

I remember when my kids were babies. We'd visit the pediatrician every month for the first six months of their lives, then every three months until they were a year old.

"He grew an inch. He gained a pound and a half. His head circumference grew. Here are four more shots he'll need today."

It took me a long time to stop shaking my head in awe at such exponential growth every few months, but after a while, I got used to it.

When the kids got older, their exams dwindled down to once a year. This seemed like an awfully long time to go before checking on things. And when we did go, the growth for a year was about the same as it had been each month when they were infants.

But after a while, I got used to that too.

"Grew an inch, gained three pounds." This became our new way of measuring. "Eats well, sleeps well, likes school, no scoliosis. Flu shot, booster shot, see you next year."

Well now, it seems, the annual physical exams will hearken back to those of their infancy. I imagine this is a pre-teen/teen thing, as this year's was the first glimpse I've had.

"Your 11-year-old will need to see the eye doctor; his vision is 20/70. He'll probably need glasses."

"Your 14-year-old is doing well. You can expect him to grow about four inches this year."

I'm sorry, what? He's going to be as tall as me in less than a year? Yes, that visible, fervent morphing from boy to man is beginning.

How did I deal with this news? Like any rational mother when she's told her firstborn is leaving his childhood behind and there's not a damned thing she can do about it. I told my husband to brush up on his shaving lesson skills, and stocked the refrigerator with lots of meat. Then I pulled out all the baby pictures and videos I could fit in my lap, sat down on the couch and cried at how fast it's all going.

OK, not really, but I felt  like doing that. Because for all the trials and tribulations of sleepless baby nights, tantrum-y toddlerhood and social navigation maneuvers that the last 14 years have wrought, I could not give you a single detail about any of it that I'm happy to leave behind. I only remember the good, none of the bad (though I'm sure there had to be some bad, right?) and what I do remember all feels like a dream.

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with my neighbor and her 22-month-old son. Little M is at that stage of development where everything is fun: reading Elmo books, playing with trains and having stuffed animal tea parties. For me, participating in these activities with him was like a gift. The memories of my own boys' early years came flooding back, and I could not stop smiling.

I know the next several years will be full of new experiences: dating, shaving, driving, college. After that, the boys will be gone--on to their own lives and worlds, and no longer part of my immediate orbit. And I know that those years are going to be challenging, probably even more so than the toddler years were. But I also know that they are going to fly, leaving me to replay them over and over in the rear view mirror of my mind.

So I'm hugging my man-boy a little tighter these days, even as he makes his way forward toward independence. I try to plan experiences with him that will create fond memories for both of us to recall once he's gone. And maybe when he does, he'll pick up the phone and give me a call to say hi, and tell me what kind of big changes he's looking forward to that week, that month, that year.

1 comment:

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

My oldest will be starting high school next year and he just registered for classes. I am both in awe that I have a child this old and incredibly excited for what lies ahead. I think, however, if this were my youngest, I might be a bit more bittersweet and longing for those growth chart doctor appointments.

Man-boy indeed - an apt description as I look at him these days (though really, HE is still more boy, yet. :) )