Kristi writes regularly on her website Finding Ninee. This post was originally featured there.
Sitting around the dinner table, I paused and looked at my little boy, who is, in his mind, a big boy. But in mine he remains little, because being six can’t yet be big. I do notice that he’s no longer little-little. As I watched him open the straw for his juice box and insert it into the tiny foil hole at the top, I almost started crying.
“I love you, buddy. You’re such a big boy,” I said, thinking about how quickly and slowly the moments happen. I felt pride because he can now open the straw for a juice box when once I wondered when he’d be able to do so. I watch him and cannot believe that we’re here. That he’s six, and talking and having conversations when once I wondered whether I’d ever understand some of his actions and words. Understand him. His progress. His him-ness. His growth is breaking and filling my heart every single day.
He’s both big and little. Our closeness shifts. His independence stretches and recedes. I am constantly full of pride and exploding love. I am constantly missing the before-hims. I already miss now-hims as they happen and are gone, just like that. I walk behind his chair and stroke his hair, remembering when he wasn’t yet able to hold up his little bald head.
As I stood and watched the sunset from my front porch I thought to myself, Tomorrow, you’re not gonna be one of the little kids anymore. It was the night before my sixth birthday. I walked to school alone each day, although my mom could see me from the kitchen window. She drew pictures on my lunchbox napkins. Most of the time, I looked to see what was on it before getting to school. I was a big girl. I was so young.
Today, I met my son as he got off the school bus. He’d told a friend and her brother about Strike, his new pet guinea pig. He’d invited them to come over to meet her. As their mom and I walked, my boy and his friend walked separately, and crossed the street ahead of us. I only felt a little panic on whether they had looked both ways. They must have.
They had their visit and our friends left. I emptied my son’s lunchbox and tossed the napkin I drew on that morning. I wonder when my mom stopped drawing on my napkins. When I will.
“You’re gonna let us take him home? Just like that?” I said. “You check the carseat and we can just leave?”
My son was a newborn, and I couldn’t believe that the guy in an Army uniform at the hospital said that we could go home because the carseat was acceptable. While part of me wanted to argue with him and shout “but we don’t know what to do,” and another part whispered “let’s go” thinking that we’d better go home before they knew we weren’t actually qualified to care for an infant. I felt like a grownup. And like a child who needed her parents.
I look into the mirror. “When did I stop looking good?” I wonder. I think about how much better I looked 15 years ago. I can see the skin beneath my eyes become thinner and more papery by the month. I imagine myself in 15 years, and know that I’ll think about how much better I looked today than I will then. I hope to be here in 15 years, worrying over my papery lines and folds. My son will be 21. An adult. He’ll probably have abs and feel like he knows everything the way that I once did. The way that 21-year-olds do. They’re so grown up. They are so young.
Back when I knew everything, I thought that by this point in my life, I’d be more organized, more legally prepared, more life-prepared.
Today I know how little I know. I realize that with each year comes growth and power and more me-ness. That it gets easier and harder to forget how old we are.
There’s a me who lives inside, one without papery skin beneath her eyes. She feels like the same girl who stood on her porch the night before her sixth birthday. She feels like she did at 17 in love for the first time.
She feels the way she did in the hospital, the day she took her infant son home.
And yet she also knows that she’s lived with enough intent during the important moments so that they are now a part of a wiser, more-papery-eyed her.
She’s finally old enough to know what she doesn’t know. I think she and I are okay with that.
Together though, we’ll continue the search for perfect eye cream because no age means that seeing papery wrinkles in the mirror is the same as seeing ourselves. Except for when it is, because we’re each all of the people we’ve been and will become. Some of them, especially the ones in our futures, have wrinkles.