A reader emailed me today asking if I had a copy of a column. Her copy was tattered, and she wanted one for a friend. I dug through my archives (a fancy name for the big bench in our living room where I stuff stuff) and found it. As I prepared to scan it, I read it. I wrote it this time of year 8 years ago. Motherlode will be ten in October. Ari turned 19 last week. Can’t believe it.
originally published August 16, 2005
Ari, my baby, will be turning 11 in a few days.
But he’s not 11; he’s still a newborn, being handed to a mother with a stunned look on her face that he isn’t a girl.
I was so sure. I deserve a girl. I already have a boy, and everybody knows boys take all those good manners you teach them and become part of some other girl’s family. Girls, if raised with sufficient amounts of guilt, will stick around to help with insane amounts of canning in the summer, and tell you that your makeup is out of date. I want a girl.
He’s one year old. As I catch his brother tobogganing him down the front steps in a recycling box, he tries to circumvent my rage by indicating that he’s wearing his helmet. Just like I’ve told him.
He’s two, and taking a swig of gasoline out of an unguarded container. He is lying in a huge bed at the hospital, his eyes as big as saucers and my heart a cold stone in my chest. We have dodged a fatal bullet and the striped nightie they gave him stays in my closet, provoking instant tears a decade later.
He’s three. Watching his big brother head off to Grade 1, and he doesn’t beg to go, too. For the first time he has me all to himself. He has been so patient, and I hadn’t noticed.
He’s four. His first preschool report card informs me he loves to cut things up with scissors. I should have paid closer attention to those words. His artistic abilities bloom, and our house becomes the canvas.
He’s five. I get a call from the principal’s office on the first day of real school. He’s already in trouble for throwing a spitball. I didn’t know he knew what that was. As he stands defiantly in front of her, refusing to cry, I see my baby trembling like a leaf. No more spitballs.
He’s six. When he loses his first tooth and refuses to put it under his pillow, I remind him he’ll lose out on the cash. He calmly informs me some things are better than money.
He’s seven. He has a crush on his teacher, and makes her a huge, intricate Valentine, complete with his photo on it. I run into her years later, and she still has it.
He’s eight. He discovers he runs like the wind. While he loves the track, he struggles with his reading and remembers not everything comes easily for everyone. While not exactly humble, my kid is kind.
He’s nine. As school begins, he bounds through the door and announces for the first time, he’s not the shortest kid in the class. I decide not to hoist my adult concerns on the kids so often, and rejoice in their milestones.
He’s ten. The girls start calling, and he calls back. He would still rather climb a tree, but I know someday his good manners will win him a spot in some lucky girl’s family.
I just hope her mom reminds him to call home once in a while.