Van Alice Bradley, die haar eigen blog heeft op finslippy maar ook colums schrijft, onder andere voor redbook. Zo mooi dat ik het wil bewaren… Om later nog eens te herlezen, en te vergelijken met mijn eigen ervaringen… Ik krijg al heimwee van op voorhand, van voor ons kindje geboren is…
LETTING GO OF YOUR KIDS, LITTLE BY LITTLE
I knew there would come a time when I’d have to say good-bye to my little boy. I just didn’t realize it would happen again and again.
Well before I became a parent, I could have guessed that raising a child would involve, in addition to much joy, its fair share of sadness. I mean, I’d seen plenty of commercials where parents watch their kids leave home. I had heard “Sunrise, Sunset.” I’d been warned there would be a time to let go and that the moment would be bittersweet. But I pictured this letting-go happening once, maybe twice: on my child’s first day of school, and the day he drove off to college. My husband and I would wave good-bye as we stood arm in arm, our hair graying tastefully. I’d be wearing a sweater set and pearls. I had it all worked out.
But in fact the act of letting go is gradual. Every year, I find myself mourning my son’s slow exit from childhood. I can hardly look at photos of now-7-year-old Henry as a toddler without a lump forming in my throat. I miss the child he was; I want to hold on to the kid he is now. And just when I think I grasp who he is this second, he changes again.
On the other hand, this constant changing and shifting means I’ve had the distinct pleasure of enjoying several amazing characters. All Henry, of course — but in many ways, each his own person.
First there was the Newborn: an inscrutable lump who eerily resembled Winston Churchill. Of all the Henrys I’ve known, I miss that one the least. Sure, the first year was full of milestones, but mostly I remember the crying and the not-sleeping and the crying some more. We were in love with the Newborn, but more than anything, we looked forward to what (and who) would come next.
Then came One: a joyous Buddha who erupted into chortles and shrieks at a smile from a stranger or the taste of a new food. He discovered words and strung them together with babble, laughing uproariously each time. “Mommy blahblah fire truck bbbbbth turtle,” One would shriek, slapping his knee. Everything was a question to One. He’d clamber onto me and point at objects, asking: “What this? This?” Then he’d watch me closely, his milk breath heating my cheek, as I named it all.
Two took One’s budding language skills and ran with them. While his peers were collecting discrete words and phrases, Two was engaged in a constant monologue. He would give the day a theme: “It’s New Friend Day,” he’d announce in the morning, and we’d head to the park, our mission set.
Two also had his dark moments. When his needs weren’t quite met, he’d throw himself to the ground, his language skills abandoning him as he shrieked nonsense syllables. (We still talk about the time Two screamed that his stroller was “too murfy.”) I never thought I’d miss Two, but in retrospect, his tantrums were kind of adorable compared with the bigger-kid frustrations we deal with these days.
Three is the one whose pictures I can’t look at without choking up. In those photos, you can see that Three is losing his baby fat, but he still has the round baby cheeks, the softness around the edges that would soon fade.
Three was in love with me. Maybe this is why I miss him so much? When I picked up Three from preschool, he’d jump in my arms and kiss my face, murmuring, “Mama, Mama.” How could I not want more of that?
Four was also enamored and wanted to make an honest woman of me. Every few days, Four would look directly into my eyes and propose: “Marry me, Alice Catherine Bradley.”
I told Henry the other day about how he used to propose to me, and he laughed himself off his chair. I laughed too, but part of me wanted to defend that little boy who saw nothing funny about his desire to make me his own. Who assumed I was his, and always would be.
Five stretched out like taffy, turning into a skinny, knobby-kneed creature. He was affectionate but found the world far more interesting than his mother. That is how it should be, but knowing that didn’t make the transition any easier.
Five was in kindergarten, so he knew about many things. Things like “helping,” which he defined as “telling us what to do.” He knew that “manners” meant “always saying ‘May I?’” (“Henry, do you want milk with your dinner?” “No, Mommy, it’s, ‘Henry, may I ask you if you want milk with your dinner…?’”) Five knew that you should never leave an intact acorn lying on the ground. “Whole acorns are lucky,” he’d tell us, then whisper a wish to the acorn and tuck it in his pocket.
Five was so certain. Every time he issued a declaration, I felt a pang: When would self-doubt kick in? Even as I exulted in his confidence, I worried. When would the world knock him down?
Six wanted only to hang out with his Dad. I didn’t mind this entirely — not being the number-one choice to play Star Wars with had its advantages — but it stung a bit. Six seemed to sense that I was bothered, and he would apologize yet never change his mind. I loved this about Six. He knew what he wanted and saw no reason to back down.
Six wanted to be cool, and knew that being cool did not include getting kissed by your parents. He told us that when we walked him to school, there would be no more hugs or kisses. A high-five would have to suffice. I agreed, trying not to think about the 3-year-old who’d leapt into my arms at school pickup.
Seven seems to be a preview of what it’s like to raise a teenager. Seven slams doors and yells at us about how misunderstood he is. When he’s not storming around, however, Seven is excellent company. He writes books and invents machines and shares his insights about the world and his place in it. Seven can’t wait until he’s grown up, he tells us.
Seven won’t hold my hand anymore. I insist on walking hand in hand when we’re crossing a busy street, but as soon as we’ve reached the other side, he pulls away. This kills me the most. Wait, please, I’m not ready, I want to say. Give me a couple more years, at least.
But every now and then he forgets we’re linked, or pretends to, and he keeps holding on. On those days, we walk all the way home like that. Usually we’re quiet, but sometimes we talk about the future and what it might bring. He tells me about all the adventures he can’t wait to begin, and while he’s talking I notice how much taller he seems, or how much more grown-up his face is beginning to look. It’s as if I can already see the next Henry, somewhere up ahead. I listen, and I hold on a little tighter.