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When We Were Very Young, and Then We Were Not

17 Feb When We Were Very Young, and Then We Were Not

My older son is 5’ 8” tall.  So am I. He is 12 ½ years old. I am not.

He still comes to me and hovers over my lap expecting a seat, momentarily forgetting his new, jumbo-size body. Typically, I grant him a 30-second snuggle, a big squeeze and then shoo him away. Not just because he’s heavy as hades, but because he needs to be independent. That and the fact that I’m afraid he’ll pick up on my own lingering parental clinginess. Secretly (between you, me and anyone who wants to read this), I love that he still sleeps with his bear, even though his voice has changed into a deep, husky sounding thing that cracks as it skates over unfamiliar terrain.

He has developed a very “colorful” vocabulary, you’re welcome honey, and a sharp sense of humor  — I will hand that to his dad. Until this year, he had a voice so high-pitched that I feared he would talk like Michael Jackson for the rest of his life. His outgoing voicemail message was recorded in that voice.  I’m hoping he doesn’t notice and keeps it. Until college.

Not only did I never imagine his voice being so grown-up, but I clearly recall worrying that he would never speak in full, coherent sentences.  At age two, he still liked to make up funny words for things and would string together two to three words at most. Now, I just wish I had written more of those funny words down! I know “baitee” was his word for “firetruck” and he loved baitees. These days, my husband and I call him “the attorney” as he has become quite the articulate and skilled negotiator. Not to mention purveyor of “colorful” language.

And yes, I still remember when he was barely three and I was convinced that he would never use a toilet. Certainly, he would be the kid who goes to college in diapers speaking like Michael Jackson in a made-up language.

Needless to say, he doesn’t wear a diaper anymore; although I wonder if he will ever remember to put the toilet seat down.

So I offer you this chestnut of a reminder. Childhood goes by super fast. I mean whiplash fast. I spent much of my children’s tiny-hood wondering what they might be when they grow-up, dreaming of when each difficult phase would end, or pondering when I would finally be able to go out and leave them alone. Suddenly, here we are, able to leave them alone. That was quick.

Cherish it.  I would tell you to not worry or sweat the small stuff, but you will.  It’s human nature and you are a parent and that is what we do. Just try to try to hang on to the great stuff too as much as you can.

If I may suggest, I highly recommend keeping a journal of all the funny things they say and do. I keep a notebook by the sofa.  I recently re-read that my younger son would say “vampire face building” instead of Empire State Building and my older son would ask for “privaseat” when he used the bathroom.  After my father-in-law died six years ago, I had also jotted down good memories and repeated compliments he had given each of my boys. Their grandfather would open each Skype session with “Comment vas-tu, chapeau pointu!” Nonsense in French, but it rhymes and I can hear his craggy, kind voice in my head when I read those words.

Of course, I didn’t capture every memory, but I’m happy to have what I have.

Looking back at that journal, I remember that when you are going through something challenging, you think it will never end. It does.

You think the people you love will always be there. They won’t.

You think you will remember everything. You don’t.

With all my heart I wish you cuckates (cupcakes) and posticles (popsicles) and that you remember all the good. It is always there.

Jenny Bruce is the Director of Communications at Montclare Children’s School. UWS mother of two, singer-songwriter currently enrolled at Teachers College in a MA program for Education Technology Specialis