Friday, September 2, 2011
The best age
When I was a new mom, people used to ask me all the time "what's the best age so far?" When my son was an infant, I'd answer that even with all the sleep deprivation, the diapers, the crying, I couldn't imagine a sweeter, more miraculous time than being the brand-new mom of a brand-new person.
Then he started crawling, walking, and talking and I was forced to amend. No, I'd say, the infant year was amazing, but nothing beats watching this little blob turn into a person, a person with bright wide eyes and an insatiable curiosity. Who feels, and listens, and watches, laughs from the belly and cries like he means it.
But, then my person started reading and counting and putting this and that together, in his mind or in 3D. Well, I'd say, when people asked, the infant years - they're miraculous, and those toddler years, they're amazing. But, I have to say that these school-age years - wow. Letting go each morning as he walks through the big blue doors, watching him in action in the classroom when I volunteer, hearing the day through his stories...nothing beats that. These years are the best.
A funny thing happens when your kid starts middle school, though. People stop asking you what years are the best. I guess the assumption is that they're obviouly behind you. That parenting a middle schooler is just plain hard, something you just have to get through and the best you can hope for is to come out the other side, both of you relatively unscathed.
Parenting a middle schooler is hard. Hard in ways that no one really tells you. Hard in ways that keep your stomach in knots at 2AM, hard in ways that make you doubt every choice you ever made, hard in ways that make you doubt the future you thought you wanted.
But, parenting is not supposed to be easy. Nothing that's worth anything is easy, and what's worth more than this life you've created, this gift you have given the world? What deserves more doubt and more risk and more sacrifice than the human being that once lived inside you, breathing your air, feasting on your body, growing from your cells?
This summer, I had the privilege of watching my son unzip his cocoon and gently, ever so gracefully, unimaginably bravely unfold his most spectacular butterfly wings. Physically, socially, emotionally stretching, fluttering, and soaring to new heights, as his father and I took a silent, humble step backward.
And now he embarks on a whole new journey, an enviable adventure of his very own. A wonderful new school, a whole new grade, an entirely new population of friends and colleagues, a new paradigm in learning. Best of all, a brand new, radiant smile.
Parenting a middle schooler is hard.
But, what else can I say? These are the best years.