Him. Me.

Him. Me.

www.livingfromthisdayforward.com

I catch my reflection in the window, gazing at him in the driveway out front. He’s transitioned from lobbing and catching the lacrosse ball in the basket of the stick I bought last year – a thrift score, to riding his scooter around the small driveway in hopes of mastering a wheelie, to shooting his basketball into the hoop I remember being so proud of having installed for him with the help of friends; one of those gifts, those personal accomplishments, that makes you feel like you delivered your child the shiny world on a platter.

I’m amazed at how far he’s come in his independence, in his ability to find peace in solitude. He’s able to entertain himself. He’s able to sit with quiet longer.

I recall the days where he was attached to my side always needing reassurance and witness. The days where play dates consisted of holding me tightly on the bench while he watched his friends run around together in a pack around the playground, carefully studying the facial expressions and body language of the families gathered around us, feeling the conflict inside between his yearning to join and the paralysis of apprehension. I remember exhausting my tired brain with ideas to keep him occupied and imprint the beauty of independent play. I recall the time I hid in my bedroom for just one moment alone and turned on the hair dryer when I heard his little determined toddler steps starting down the hall – hunting me down – because he disliked the noise and I just needed a few minutes to breathe. What? You have a story, too…

He reaches my collarbones now; the hair on the top of his head tickles my chin when we hug. The bottoms of his feet rest against my shins just above the bend in my ankle when we spoon, almost the length of my own body. His voice drops when he helps me do important things. He brings in the mail without my request on his way back from the bus stop. He’s quick to jump in where sister stalls. He helps direct the truck when I back up to Poppy and hook up for an adventure. He barely flinches at unexpected change and rolls with spontaneity. He swallows letdown with a new ease and retrieves his own silver lining; regurgitating the kind of encouragements once offered to him. He rationalizes disappointing behaviors in others, offering an alternative way to view it as growth in progress. He gets things from the dark basement when I need them, without a sister chaperone, barely a detectable hesitation remaining. He reads novels. Next to me. We read novels side-by-side.

He’s grown. He’s growing into himself.

Life events define chapters for me, and the last began 3 ½ years ago. I reflect on the 4-year-old boy he was, just coming into his own in the most significant transition I’d witnessed. I pause to consider my own transition – in independence – during this time as well. It’s indescribable; too large for the boundaries of definition. Having tossed myself into a tumbler of discovery, I’m polishing up just fine.

I manage this home and every little detail of our lives on my own. I exercise solitude in a quiet house each night after my babes are down and while they are away some weekends. I dig for courage, celebrate victories, and toss my concerns or wonders back and forth to solve problems all inside myself. I use my voice to negotiate and speak up for myself in the areas of life that require big girl pants. I devour words in books and essays and the expression of others to broaden my place and make sense of this unpolished, imperfect life. I offer words in a space less concerned about how they will be received. I repeatedly circle back and rest at grace to make sense of differences or misunderstanding. I connect with people in a way different than before. I answer to the nudges. I push myself out of my comfort zone. Often. It scares me and I like it. It’s changed me. I’m looking back over the years at different versions of this unpredictable journey and I’m proud of what I see. Perhaps more notable, I squash my own spiders and no longer run the steps up from the basement two, hell, three at a time to evade the illusive chaser.

I’ve grown. I’m growing into myself.

These milestones – catching independence – feel like an accomplishment that we celebrate together, quietly and in different, often unspoken ways. Our space of independent exploration is woven with our togetherness in a stitch I never want to change, but I know better. Our story will continue to deliver an evolving love.

On his way back into the house after voluntarily cleaning up toys and closing the garage door that evening, we exchange this humble, knowing smile. He is fluent in my expressions and he understands my sentiment as I silently marvel at the ways in which he has grown.

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