Ten

A decade ago, I was rooting against science.

Not for any dire reasons. But when you are seven days overdue with your first child and your doctor estimates that said child weighs more than nine pounds, you kind of want her to be wrong. Because you’ve never given birth but you’ve heard and read allllll about it — and don’t physics just work against a giant baby being delivered without splitting the mother in half?

My OB decided it was time to induce me, but she looked me in the eyes and issued a stern warning.

“Look, this isn’t going to be easy. You’re not the least bit dilated. This is a huge baby and it’s your first. An induction probably just won’t work but if it does, it’s going to be exhausting. You need to go to sleep right now before things get intense.”

Well, holy shit. Look who was the probable recipient of the Worst Bedside Manner Ever Medal in her medical school class. Truly, a less soothing bedtime tale had never been told. I hated her, and not just in that moment. I knew I should’ve switched doctors months ago but now it seemed, well, a tad late — as I was admitted to the hospital and administered Pitocin for the herculean feat before me. The nurses came and went, assuring me that the weight estimates are never right. Don’t worry, they said. Your son won’t be as big as they say.

“Say hello to your one-month old,” the other, nicer OB on shift — the one with a normal ability to talk to patients — said with a laugh as she successfully delivered my child some 16 hours later. All nine pounds and four ounces of him.

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How that was ten years ago utterly escapes any concept of time and space to me. How that butterball newborn is now a lean fourth grader defies all logic and makes my eyes well up with disbelief.

I’m told by friends with older kids that I’m not totally insane to have the onset of double digits hit me particularly hard. It seems like a distinct corner to turn, knowing he is closer to adulthood than he is to birth at this point. And that’s remarkably hard for me to swallow.

This oldest child of mine has taught me far more than I realized. Not just about how to change a diaper, burp an infant or buy a Halloween costume before October 15. Sure, the lessons about bathing slippery newborns and breastfeeding and managing toddler tantrums and sending them off to kindergarten were all new to me and learned at his expense. The oldest bears this experimentation impact in every family for all new parents, as we inevitably consider more options than we ever knew were possible at every crossroads, often choosing poorly and always beating ourselves up for it. Our mishaps in raising them become the fables for their siblings, the cautionary tales shared among friends.

And the stakes get higher every year.

My newly-minted ten year-old, like most his age, is desperately between wanting more freedom and depending on us for his needs. I have seen him mature so much in the last few years, but he’s still a young boy who needs us. What a line to walk — for him, for me, for our collective sanity.

He equally loves facts and fantasy — his brain waffling constantly between his deep knowledge of history and the intangible surrealism of Harry Potter. His firm grasp of WWII has tested and surpassed the boundaries of my own education (Why did I not pay more attention in high school? Whyyy?) — with books about battles, both infamous and obscure, opened daily at the breakfast table.

He has little to no interest in sports, which are often the social currency of a fourth grade lunch table and playdates. When I say he’d rather have his nose in a book, it’s not some ill-disguised humble-brag or because I think he’s smarter than his peers. In fact, I’ve been met with more than one eyeroll in response. Oh, poor you — your kid is always in a book.

They don’t understand, the eye rollers.

They don’t understand that it’s easier for my child to have his nose in a book. That a world he can control — a world of reliable, historical facts — is easier for him than having a casual conversation. That a world of pure fiction with wizards and spells is sometimes more appealing than the rules of socializing.

This child will give you his heart and soul to make you laugh. He will relish the chance to recap for you what he has read about on any given day. And he will spontaneously tell his parents that he loves them. He is endlessly curious and carries an enviable sense of confidence. But a lot does not come easy for him, and knowing that has both broken and stretched my heart a million times.

People talk about how parenting changes you — sometimes in tired, clichéd ways and sometimes in ways so heartfelt and true that you can’t believe the words didn’t come from your own mouth. I’m only a fraction of the way through this job and I know this change is sometimes sudden and defining, and other times it’s gradual and nearly imperceptible. But it’s there and it’s born of fierce protection, love, frustration and hope.

A decade has somehow gone by, and in exchange for the Pitocin and fear of the unknown, I now have this amazing, blue-eyed eldest of three children celebrating his tenth birthday. There are presents that he’ll open today, and then there are the ones that he has given me — the ones he can’t see or wrap.

Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet boy.

 

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