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Be Patient With Him

Learning through imperfection

Every time I look out the window and see the twisted waistband of his shorts bunched below his underpants, I have to resist the urge to go outside and fix it.

Be patient with him, I tell myself.

In just over one brief month, my little boy will turn 4. I remember reading a study that found kids are at “maximum cuteness” age at 4, and I can see how this might be true.

My golden-haired boy is still sweetness and innocence, but he’s quickly moving into another stage of his life. His cheeks have become leaner; his body seems to grow taller every time I look at him. He craves responsibility and independence and is eager to learn about the world around him.

It’s my job to let him go and let him learn.

What I’ve learned over the past (nearly) four years is that parenting involves so much more than keeping them clean, fed and safe. As they grow, it becomes about teaching them to navigate the world with competence and confidence. Hard as it is, parents have to let their kids make mistakes and do things their own way.

Sometimes I fix his shorts when he doesn’t get them on quite right, but not always. Sometimes I force myself to resist the urge to fix, to adjust, to correct. I don’t need things to be perfect and he doesn’t need me following behind him, redoing what he’s done.

There’s a chill in the morning air lately. It’s the season of No. 2 pencils and crisp new notebooks. I always get sentimental this time of year. It’s as if my kids are growing up right before my eyes and a part of me wants to grab hold of them tight and never let go. But letting go is part of the job.

He takes my hand when we sit together on the couch. He brushes my hair away from my face when I bend down to talk to him. His hugs are enthusiastic and still given freely. I don’t know how long any of these things will last, so I soak up every instance of his youthful sweetness and attention.

He sits next to me as I type these very words, his hand on my wrist. I never want to move from this spot.

Toddler love

But soon we’ll get up and I’ll let him help me fix dinner. It can be maddening to wait for him to do things I could do so quickly myself, but I know it’s important.

Be patient with him, I tell myself.

When he wants to fill the dog bowls himself by making 13 trips with a tiny cup between the water dispenser and the porch, dripping water on every route: be patient with him.

When he struggles to get a zipper fastened: be patient with him.

When he insists upon getting into his car seat on his own, performing each step at an excruciatingly slow pace.

When he gets frustrated with his inability to do things as proficiently as he’d like.

Be patient. Important things are being learned.

So much of parenting is daunting: teaching compassion alongside self-confidence, generosity alongside ambition. Teaching about recycling and danger and hygiene and inequality and taking chances and being careful and how vast and bountiful is our world. Answering “what is a booger?” just before being asked, “what is dead?” It’s a never-ending learning experience for us both.

And yet, amidst all the challenges of parenting, patience can seem like the most difficult skill of all. How can I expect them to learn something I myself haven’t mastered?

So I remind myself often: Be patient. Be understanding. Hesitate. Observe. Listen. Breathe.

The season of learning is upon us.

 

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Dear Sweet Autumn Baby

Autumn Wedding Day

Our perfect autumn wedding day in November 2008

Dear Sweet Baby,

After a long, hot summer, the weather has finally started to turn cool. It’s beginning to feel like autumn: the season of your birth.

Your father and I were married in this season, on a gorgeous fall day nearly three years ago. There’s something so peaceful about this time of year, so mature and deliberate. Spring, with its wild abundance and infinite possibility, has always been my favorite season. But autumn seems like such a perfect time for you to come into our lives. It’s certainly become a special time in my life, and becomes more so with every passing day as we draw closer to your arrival.

I’m fully in preparation mode now, doing all I can to feel ready. It never seems like enough. I know there’s nothing I can do completely prepare my heart for the day it grows huge with love for you. Nothing in the human body can expand that quickly without some pain involved — without aching at least a little bit. I already feel my heart swelling and being stripped raw at the same time, just by having you inside me.

People talk so much about crazy pregnancy emotions, but rarely about why expectant women get so soft and vulnerable to everything around them. Perhaps it’s a kind of practice run for how fully and helplessly we love these babies when they finally arrive.

This pregnancy — the process of creating you and growing you into something real — has not been brief or fleeting. It feels like I’ve been pregnant for ages and I still have more than a month to go. I can feel my body readying itself to bring you into the world; now it’s just my heart that needs to get itself into shape. I fear it will truly burst when I finally lay eyes on you.

It’s been more than 10 years since your dad and I first met. We were so young — in years, but even more so in spirit. We took our time growing up: moving to new cities; changing jobs and careers; collecting experiences and friends along the way. It took a long time for us to get here, and a lot of people haven’t always understood why.

But we know.

We know it took every one of those years — every week, every month, every season — to bring us here today. We anticipate your arrival with hearts that have grown broader and stronger with every passing year. And still, we know you will turn us upside down and inside out. That our lives will never be the same again.

Ten years. Ten autumns. And now, the autumn of you. Of new feelings, new experiences — a whole new chapter for us. I wait for you with bated breath, knowing this is only the beginning of the rest of our lives.

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