Rubies: on parenting older kids

setting sun via kimberlyanncoyle.com

My little one went to the Farmer’s market with the neighbors and a few bucks in her pocket. She picked cherries the color of rubies from a bin and she filled half a brown paper bag with them. She brought them home and pulled them from her backpack with pleasure written all over her face.  “I bought them for you, Mom,” she said. “I know how much you love them.”

She pulled one out of the bag by the stem and  held it out to me like a jewel, an offering. I washed it and ate around the pit. I don’t like cherries, but I told her it was the best cherry I ever tasted while she shoved one after another in her mouth. They left a ruby ring around her lips when she smiled, so proud to give me this gift. She then asked me to reimburse her for the cost of said gift, and I smiled to myself as I watched her spit out pits. Then I gave her a few dollars.

I often read the late night scratchings of mothers in the thick of raising very little ones, or those who have recently stepped out of the fog of raising little ones. It makes me feel incredibly sad that I didn’t write my way through those years. I filed those stories for another day, and now they are shadows cast by the evening sun. Those words never made it to paper or computer screen. The stories aren’t lost to me, but they’re difficult to capture now that my children are older and we’re living new stories.

Reading these mamas words and their baby stories often makes me wish I’d done things differently. Cuddled more, absorbed more, written more, reveled more. And then I remember the exhaustion and the moving overseas and the frequent travel, and I realize that I lived more than most mamas in those early years. The living more was important for me and for us as a family, and if the stories never made it to print, at least I know they are tattooed somewhere deep in the lining of mine and my children’s souls.

Now that we live in the stage of teens and tweens, I find myself desperate not to wish away the hard years or the stories we are writing today. I don’t know a lot of mamas who write about these years because the kids aren’t so cute when they’re calling you names under their breath and the cuddles are harder to come by. They don’t call spaghetti “bizgetti” anymore. They want privacy, and they deserve it too. But they still bring us paper bags of cherries and they still crawl into bed for a quick cuddle before leaving for sleep-away camp and they help us mamas pick out the most flattering pair of wedge heels for the wardrobe they regularly raid. God, these years are so good. The stories are so rich, and I want to read more of them. I want to tell you more too. I want you to know that these years are the rubies dangling from the stem, the true gift after all the sleepless nights of their toddlerhood.

The sleepless nights begin again at this age, for different reasons, but there is clarity in the midnight hours that you don’t have in the fog of babyhood. You are wide awake enough to pray, and to remember the stories tattooed across your soul, and to look forward to the new ones that will find their way into the inner lining. I want to write through these years, for me and for them. I want to write through these years for you too, so you forget to feel afraid or alone when you live through them. These years are the gems, and they will leave a ruby stain to remind you that the hard years can be the most beautiful ones too.

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  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    i have really started to pull my mind here – out to the future. where their stories get further from being mine to tell. how to find the balance of keeping privacy and how to keep scripting love and life to have to hold onto in the years ahead. i am looking to people like you, a little further, a lot more wiser to help guide my way. xo

    • I wish I more wisdom, but at the very least, I have experience;) Thanks for showing up here, Tara. Always so good to hear from you:)

  • This brought tears to my eyes! It reminded me of the dozen
    roses my 13 year old (going on 9) gave me for mother’s day. I don’t like roses.
    My husband took him to the grocery store the Saturday before, and he said that
    Elijah had told him that he knew I wasn’t a flower person, but he so
    desperately wanted to get me something beautiful. Mike told him I would love
    them. Really, the beaming smile and joy on his face was the best gift I received
    that morning. And my oldest, he’s 15 (going on 22). I told him the other day
    that he needed to read the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain, because I know he loves
    all things human behavior. He lives in a house full of introverts, and wonders
    if he is one himself (I think he is, but not nearly as far on the spectrum as
    the rest of us). He’s a deep thinker, so we dove into a great conversation on
    the topic. Hearing him so beautifully articulate his thoughts brought such joy
    and pride into my heart, that I was able to temporarily forget the dirty plate,
    empty blueberry pint container, and the half dozen pairs of shoes he left scattered all
    over the first floor of our house.

    Thank you! As usual, so beautifully written!

    • Susan, I can’t tell you how much it means to me to read your stories too. Thanks so much for sharing. You’re doing a good job, mama! Those boys of yours sound incredibly special:)

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