By Aubrey Hirsch
My son is growing up at a rate of exactly one second per second. And I think that’s the perfect speed. I don’t want him to be a baby forever. I want him to become the person he carves himself into, at the rate he chooses to grow.
It’s true that I love watching his satisfaction when he balances one block on top of another. But I can’t wait to see him study hard and learn something even I don’t understand. I want him to stretch himself, to work and try. And fail, sometimes. I want him to know the deep pleasure that accompanies triumph after disappointment.
His sweet toddler babbling is like music to me now, but I can’t wait for him to tell me what he’s thinking, what he wants, who he is and not just who I think he is. We often talk about wanting to keep our kids small, to protect them from the less appealing parts of life. But I want my son to have everything life has in store for him.
I want him to experience splendor and grief, summer sun and injury. I want him to lie to his best friend and feel the white-hot rush of embarrassment in his cheeks. I want him to have friendship, get picked on, make a pretty girl laugh, feel so alone he can barely breathe.
I want him to laugh until his ribs ache and cry until his throat is raw. I want him to run fast and skin his knees. I want him to give up on something important. I want him to make wrong decisions. I want him to know that pain and sadness lurk around every corner, under every good thing, and that life is unfair and unforgiving. But that there is beauty there, too. And hope. And comfort.
He should have warm air on his face, but also burning fevers. I want him to feel like no one understands him. I want him to have splinters and sore muscles and heartache. He should have pain. And love. And sorrow. And happiness so pure that it hurts him, because he knows—even as he has it—how soon it will be gone.
I want all these things because I love him and because this is what mothers do: We make our kids eat their vegetables and attend their oboe lessons and apologize to their friends when they screw up. We do this because we know better than our kids that temporary discomfort can open doors to wonderful things. And that sometimes great pain makes room in our hearts for joy to fill.
Even if I did hope to keep him small, if I thought having this child, at this age, made me the happiest a person could ever be, then I’m not so selfish that I would keep him from having his own perfect moment with his own perfect child. So I don’t mind watching him get bigger and watching the seconds tick away. I know those clock hands are moving toward amazing things for him, even the ones that seem terrible at the time.
Aubrey Hirsch is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar. She has also written essays on pregnancy and motherhood for TheRumpus.net. You can learn more about her at www.aubreyhirsch.com.
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