They grow up so fast. No, really.

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of guilt, will stick around to help with insane amounts of canning in the summer, and tell you that your makeup is out of date.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.

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19 responses to They grow up so fast. No, really.

  1. Pat says:

    What a lovely column Lorraine. It reminds me of the changes I used to see in my students from grade 9 to grade 12. They would come to the first day of grade nine, still children, scared and shy. By the end of grade twelve they would be young men and women, confident and ready to send off to college or the work world. I was was so proud of them, it was hard to hold back the tears at graduation. I’m sure you feel great pride and a little loss that Ari is off to school, and I hope he calls home once in a while.

  2. Beth says:

    Wow that almost brings tears to my eyes. As the mother of two boys and one of three sisters with no brothers (Lorraine and I are electronic soul mates) I know what you mean about the future daughters-in-law. The wonderful husband and I spent last week on the road as we dropped the “baby” off at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. We live in Ottawa and took three days to drive up and three days back. We had to take the SUV as the “baby” had to have everything with him, all the winter clothes, etc and I think we spent a million dollars on gas. We spent a few days in TB so we could get to know the city before he settled into residence. At the appointed hour, we headed to the residence so he could get his key and we could unload, all done in about half an hour. Once everything was in his shoebox, I mean room, we all just kind of stared at each other. I stated I guess it was time he went over to his orientation session, we hugged and I hid a few tears. As we departed, I saw him bounding across the campus with absolute joy, feeling the energy of all the new students starting their adult lives. I was able to smile at the site and remind myself that even though he will not be 18 until December, I think I did a pretty good job.

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Beth,
      My dad did the same drive last week up to TB to take my younger brother to Lakehead for his first year. Same as you with an SUV packed to the gills!
      I got to field all the worried calls from Mom while they were driving and out of cell reception since she had to stay home to work.
      Hope your son’s first year goes well!

      • Beth says:

        Thanks Cheryl. He is SO thrilled to be there, I know he will be fine. It would be nice to be able to pop in for a weekend (announced of course) and have a visit without an airline involved.

        • Cheryl says:

          That would be nice!
          We were talking plans for Thanksgiving, knowing of course that Shaun wouldn’t be home and he offered to host us all for Thanksgiving dinner in his dorm room. Don’t think that’s going to happen, but at least he’s having fun with it.

  3. jmd says:

    I remember the tears when I left my son Mark at his first day of kindergarten, and the tears when I left him at university . Last week there were tears when he took his oldest son to the first day of Grade One. And the wheel of life goes ’round.

  4. Sandy says:

    Can I join this proud mommy party?
    My tears fell quickly the first day I left my boy at the sitter after my mat. leave and again on the first day of Grade One when he marched into a new school, not knowing a soul, without a care in the world. Last Sunday I took him to Ottawa and again, not knowing a soul, he was anxious, but very excited to be starting this new chapter. I tried very hard but the goodbye hug in parking lot took me out at the knees and I was a puddle.
    He told me he would be fine and asked me to message him later that I got home safe.
    He has messaged me a few times during the week but last night was my first phone call and it was wonderful to hear his voice and how happy he is and the fun that he is having.
    Thanksgiving seems like forever away.

  5. Chris Brown (not the felon) says:

    Such a great sentiment at this time of year. And once again written so eloquently. It’s also very interesting that such a large percentage of the active commenters here seem to be at the same point in life, if not the same age (so much.) I too have just returned from dropping offspring number last off at University and have so much to be grateful for in how she’s turned out. How she’s felt nauseous 24 hours a day for the last two years but never says a word. How she plays rep volleyball and waitresses 12 hours a day (or night, rather) and wakes up with a spring in her step at 6:00 AM to help with set-up at church.

    But if I read about a chainsaw massacre in Kelowna I will be checking her Master Card statement to see if she visited any hardware stores.

    Ya just never know.

    • Pat says:

      If there’s a chainsaw massacre in Kelowna, there will be lots of suspects. I think everyone out there has a least two chainsaws. I think it’s a provincial requirement?
      All you wonderful parents sound like you’ve done a good job. College can be a stressful time for kids. After the first two weeks of partying settle down, the work load kicks in; assignments due, stuff to read, getting themselves up for class, eating a halfway decent diet. Not to mention the emotional side; relationships, sex, ( I know Dad, La La La La, I can’t hear you), alcohol, drugs etc.
      I know I’m a buzz kill here, they all still need your love and guidance, maybe more now than ever before.

      • Beth says:

        Great point Pat. The kids, or rather young adults are all so global savvy these days due to the internet, etc, yet I find I know people well into their twenties who still behave like two year olds. I am lucky the youngest is very mature for his years, a kind person and really cares about others, but not what others think about him (in the healthy sense).

  6. Lorraine Lorraine says:

    I bought Ari a Spiderman cup to keep his toothbrush in.

  7. Kerry says:

    Can you post a picture or video of you embroidering ? Roz will want to frame it .

  8. Padraig says:

    At 18, I left home to join the Royal Air Force, travelling by steam train to the wilds of Lancashire. My father had died earlier that year, and my mother said, as I left the house:
    “Goodbye son. Don’t abuse your body”

    I should have listened to her.

    Ladies, I know it’s tough, but try not to smother ‘em.

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