Saturday, July 27, 2013

letting my 8 year old go. . . (for ten minutes)

He wants to buy worms, this little son of mine, and I don't have time.

I know, worms are a need, he's going fishing.  I calculate the bread in the oven still and Eli needing a bath and the distance out of my way to stop to buy worms and suddenly I have a great idea.

Three, no four, no five? blocks down the street, on our side, in the oddest place, is a little gas station that may or may not sell gas anymore, but they definitely sell bait. 

I think for a moment.  Jacob rides his bike all over the place, he's just never gone there.  I think about how easy it would be for him and me and know he's completely capable of buying a container of nightcrawlers on his own. 

I hatch out this little plan with him.  He is one hundred percent on board with running his own errand and with many assurances that he'll be fine, he trucks off on his own with my BlackBerry in his pocket. 

Call 911 if you need to! I trail after him and sound like a crazy person.  He is 8 going on 28 and savvy and smart and an all around great kid.  He will be just fine and I am turning into the clinging mother I vowed I wouldn't be.

My bread bakes and I kneel next to the tub, bathing Eli, strangely bereft of that constantly behind feeling that I carry. 

He's old enough and fine.

He's gonna be so proud paying for those worms and putting them in his HyVee sack.

I'm so scared he'll . . . like. . . veer out into the street in front of a car.

Truth, woman, tell yourself truth. 

#1 Jacob has never veered anywhere.  He was born on purpose.  He purposefully, dutifully, stubbornly marches through life according to plan.  He doesn't veer. 

#2 Refer to #1.

With the time I saved not stopping to pick up bait, I worried.

It is hard for me to imagine a more stressful state of being than raising babies and toddlers.  You pray for them to go to sleep, and in my case, pray for them to wake up too.  This leaves me in a strange tension of inadequacy and exhaustion. 

In my head, all of my mothering problems will go away once everyone is potty trained, sleeping through the night, not biting fellow tots, reading, mastering beginning addition and independently able to cater a snack to oneself. 

In another wiser corner of my head, I tell myself that this is an illusion, a mirage that only mothers of toddlers believe.

My friends with kids older than mine assure me that motherhood is still quite wearing even though they aren't buying Pampers anymore.

And now I'm experiencing it all on my very own.  I have coached this child on manners, his dad has drilled financial sense into him, we have quizzed and requizzed him on bike safety and let him out on his own numerous times. He even has a phone with him!  I have raised him to the point that he is totally capable of what he is doing and now I'm worrying and scared when I should be triumphant and happy.

Like I tell Deeann I'm gonna be at my kids high school graduations.  No sniffling here! I say bravely.  I am gonna be rejoicing and planning a vaca with my man!  Triumphant and happy, that's me.

Or not. 

What if?

Is he okay?

It's been all of five minutes.

Ok, that's it, I'm getting Eli out of the tub and driving down to see if he's okay. 

**noise in the driveway

"Mom, I'm back, it went fine, Mom, the worms are $3.20, but Mom I'm so embarrassed, I went all the way there and I forgot my wallet. I remembered everything else!  I have it now, I'll be right back."


"There was one thing a little bad."

My heart stops.

"The guy in there was smokin', Mom, and it stinks, so bad."


"I'll be right back!"

Be careful. . . . I trail off like the worrywart mom I never meant to be.

I savor these days with him, and love the conversations we can have now that he's a bit older; tonight he flopped across our bed and chatted endlessly about remote control cars and I know I glazed over but I love that he wants to tell me about it. 

I love the little man he's becoming and I ache for how much he has yet to learn and how hard life will be for him until he's willing to yield and be humble and teachable.  I am scared sometimes that we'll influence him in the wrong direction or that he'll see in us something that will scar him and wound him.

Cambria took down the letters to her name that hung above her bed leaving three: B R I .  She signs her letters Bree and calls me Mother just for something new.  Yesterday she was sporting a rubber band as an ankle bracelet.  She is always on a wild new tangent. (She is so my child.)  She does veer.  (She is not allowed to ride her bike down the street for bait.)  She may "do hair or work in a nursery" when she grows up and she changes her clothes about 52 times a day.  She can be insecure and too much of a people pleaser and a bit lazy.

You can't feed 'em a bottle and rock 'em to sleep.

It's much much more complicated.

I know, too, that I don't think these thoughts about Eli.  His needs are much simpler.  I just need a visceral strength and tons of coffee to deal with him. 

By the way, loved the study Harvard just conducted on coffee-drinking cutting suicide risk in half. Drink some coffee.  Life will look more beautiful.

But these other little growing up children of mine, beautiful and frustrating and moldable and independent-yet-needy -

I need grace and wisdom and I need to let go and rein in all at the same time. 

But when have I not needed grace and wisdom?


And I cry out to God, for my marriage, for my children, for my family,

build something beautiful
don't leave until You do
(JJ Heller)


  1. Love this, Hayley! I so, so identify on so many levels. Blessings on your mothering!

  2. Loved this post ... I'm sure in 4 years I will be here with David!

  3. "In my head, all of my mothering problems will go away once everyone is potty trained, sleeping through the night, not biting fellow tots, reading, mastering beginning addition and independently able to cater a snack to oneself."

    Oh my goodness, I think that subconsciously all the time, but how not true is that?! Loved this post... Kristi