The Agony and the Ecstasy of a Ten Year-old

My firstborn turns ten today. Pardon the theatrics, but I thought there would be more time.IMG_2577

On the aging spectrum, our girl is now closer to adulthood than she is to infanthood. By all legal measures, we are past the midway mark of having raised a child in our home. This feels equal parts accurate and completely impossible.

For example, our girl is far more likely to pick out her own clothes, friends, and activities than she is reliant on her parents to deign to have an opinion about these and other matters. But she also cannot imagine a world where we are not on the other end of a school day, and girlfriend would have 2.5 pairs of socks in her possession if not for her parents. Half the time I am so proud that girlfriend has such a vast vocabulary, and the other half I am willing all the dictionaries to disappear because really, she doesn't need to know any more words and their manifold meanings. There are also roughly 4.7 million topics we have yet to broach with her, a bajillion stories left to tell. We just brought her home as a newborn from the hospital last week, yet the seeming half-century's worth of tween sediment in her bedroom belies her recent arrival. We have pocketed the well-hewn paradox of parenting, and found that this pebble is still ours to carry for some time.


I am in awe of the unique, resilient person our girl is becoming. And I am utterly bewildered by this human who looks and sounds like her parents do, but whose DNA seems to be drawn from another source entirely, one far more exuberant and observant, like maybe a creature, part Manga princess and part wildebeest? I do not know this person and yet I should not be the least bit surprised by her. I was able to spend every waking and sleeping moment of her first few years with her, but it's still breaking news to me that she is going to reflect all the virtue and vice within me and that there is nothing I can do about it.


Our daughter is ten. Time is spiriting us away on this journey and it is stealing moments and months from us when we are otherwise checking our e-mail. Simply spread both hands wide and you can count the full set of digits. The spaces between the fingers and thumbs, though, they tell a story, too. There are the notes that repeat, the repetition that forms the chords that we remember. But between the fingers and thumbs are the rests, the moments of silence, the seasons of growth when the chords are imperceptible. The notes and the rests, the milestones and the blank pages in the baby book. We failed to document it all because we thought this hard, beautiful season might last forever, or we foolishly thought we would remember all of it.  Instead we wear more lines around our eyes, hear the faint echoes of laughter from moments we wanted to bottle whole--and these tell a story, too.

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The past decade has taught me that it is all little bit of both. Raising a human is heaven and hell at the same time, the agony and the ecstasy in equal measure, running concurrently, in two parallel streams.

We are closer to the end of parenting a child. We are nearer to an understanding of her as a child trying to become an adult. There is no mic drop here, though, no busting through the ribbon at a finish line. We are miles from watching her take her first steps, but we as her parents are still profoundly wobbly. We carry the paradox of parenthood in our pocket and hope we are swift enough when it causes us to tilt too far in any direction. Falling is guaranteed--particularly falling more in love with this beauty love force girl person whom we adore, ten times ten times ten.