And Then He's Eleven

As my son approached his eleventh birthday, I found myself sounding like those women who used to stop me on the street as I was walking with my newborn so many years ago: “Oh, sweetheart, what a beautiful baby! It goes by so quickly. Soak in every minute of it. I can still remember when my boys learned to walk like it was yesterday…”

Yes, it does go by quickly. One evening this summer, as the four of us took an after-dinner walk, I looked at my older son, whose head now reaches my chin, and asked my husband, “When do you think he’ll be taller than me?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe two summers. But maybe  next year.”

Each birthday brings an acute awareness of the passage of time. Then the memories tumble in, as they always do on the threshold of a transition.

I see him as a newborn, wrapped up in his yellow towel with the ducks across the hood, blue eyes peering out adoringly into my adoring eyes.

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I see him at two, fresh-faced, inventing games and telling stories.

I see him at four, coming out of his shell of shyness after moving to the house where we now live, running across our land, playing at the creek, discovering that the world isn’t a scary place after all.

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I see him at nearly five when his little brother was born, and the first thing he did was stretch tape across our banisters to keep his brother safe.

I see him across the years, and cry at the passage time, weep that we can’t stop it, yet knowing that I would never want to stop it as I would miss the wonder of every age. What I do wish is that I could wrap time up and hold him back through the years: the delicious newborn (oh, how I miss that stage of purity and being); the curious toddler; the inventive little boy; the mature, generous big boy. But it’s a futile wish – to wish against time. In the end, as always, I surrender in the only way I know how: I cry. I grieve for the passage of years. I weep for the speed at which its passing. And then I cry sweet tears of gratitude. Each moment lost is also a moment gained. It’s the law of transitions.

It’s the strangest thing: babies growing into kids growing into adults. Every parent goes through these transitions, and yet when it’s happening to you it feels like you’re the first person to bear this bittersweet pain and joy. How can it be that the baby is still the eleven-year old? His essence is exactly the same; it’s only the form that has changed. The him of him will never change. And yet I cry. Something is lost as he grows up. And it’s just painful.

It’s always been painful; it’s the nature of living life as a highly sensitive person. From the moment a baby is born, we’re aware that the moment that is will never be again. We document to try to hold on. We think that if we scrapbook and photograph enough, we will freeze time. I look literally thousands of photographs of my son’s first year of life – made so easy in this digital age – and I know that, at least in part, the actions stemmed from a compulsion to try to immortalize a moment in time.

But we also document to help us let go and align ourselves with the flow of life. As with so many things, the intention informs the outcome: we can document to try to control time (futile) or we can document to express the beauty or frailty of the moment. And when we create from this mindset, we spiritually immortalize a moment. The creative expression brings us into connection with the in-breath and out-breath of the universe, we find our place in time, and, thus, we stop fighting its passage and instead rest in acceptance. It’s why I write. I think of each document – a poem, a letter, a journal entry, an article, a blog post – as a thank-you note to God.

I travel back through the years, and then I return to now, the present moment. He’s still so sweet, for which I’m immensely grateful. Every night as we’re saying goodnight he asks me, “How can I help you tomorrow?” He still craves the three of us close to him, and clamors for time alone with my husband or me. I wonder for how much longer he’ll want us this close. Will he be one of those teenagers who throws his lanky, awkward body across our laps as we’re watching a movie? Or will he sequester himself away in his bedroom for hours at a time, door locked, navigating his angsty, adolescent world alone? Time will tell. For now, we revel in his sweetness and his pure expressions of love. I can still see the baby that I knew in his face and eyes, which is both heartbreaking and heart-opening. Somehow I trust that I will always be able to find him, even if he stretches the invisible umbilical cord that connects us through bonds of attachment as far as possible.

And they will go far. His plans to become a pilot that materialized so early in his life have never wavered. He longs to travel the world, to touch down onto every country, to learn languages and get to know each corner of this planet. He has plans to invent a solar-powered airplane that generates energy from its own sources (I can’t even explain it but he has it all mapped out) so that his dream of flying doesn’t contribute to global pollution. He dreams of helping, inventing, creating, adventuring, and each day he moves closer to making those dreams a reality.

Whatever he does, wherever he goes, we will hold hands across eternity. We are connected at the level of heart and soul, a bond that began in utero and has strengthened with each passing day, each passing year. He will fly away, literally and metaphorically, one day. He will pilot his own plane, literally and metaphorically. But today he’s still our little boy: close to the nest, holding our hands, a divine blessing for which we offer prayers of gratitude each day and night, and especially on this day, the day of his birth. Happy birthday, my angel.

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38 comments to And Then He’s Eleven

  • Anna

    “Each moment lost is also a moment gained”. Beautiful. Thank you!

  • Danielle Bishop

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful and loving post.

  • Star

    I wish you would write a book… Each blog entry is food for the soul. Thank you.

  • Rae

    I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who needed a Kleenax after this one. One day, as a grown adult – possibly cradling his own child in his arms – he will read these posts and will be immensely touched by his mother’s deep love.

  • Michelle

    I dare say this is your best article – so full of love, insight and beauty. I hope your son has a magical birthday!

  • Oh beautiful Sheryl….thank you. And Happy Birthday to your wonderful boy! I love what you say about our compulsion to photo document as a way to immortalise time! In fact, as I read your post, I suddenly panicked about the fact that I have 1800 pictures to file away into photo albums that document the past three years of life with our beautiful little girl! You helped me see that in fact this “project” can and will be a very healthy ritual for me, that will allow me to breathe into the pain of passing time and transitions. Our little one starts pre-school this September which is a huge milestone for her – and ME! I hope to use some of my “free” time to open that box that has been staring at me threateningly for the past few months and allow myself to really absorb these gorgeous snapshots of time and, in some way…. to let go. It will be my own personal prayer of gratitude. Thank you so much for this beautiful post Sheryl. Lots of love, Zoe xxx

  • Zoe

    If I wasn’t an atheist I would say you were my guardian angel ha. Although I don’t have children I was literally just panicking about time passing and having to ‘fit everything in’. Then I wondered whilst doing too much we also miss out on things or are too stressed and tired to enjoy something glorious when it does come along. I have tried to make a promise to myself to be there in the moment more and not think about what I will need to be doing next. What you said about highly sensitive people being more aware of time rings true. Always being aware of how fast paced everything is.

    Thank you sheryl for yet another amazing blog x

  • gareth

    Sheryl, my son just reached his 11th birthday, we’ve had a challenging year with family members passing away. your words touched areas that transcend the emotion and evoke a feeling of great warmth. Thank you, you really did brighten my day, Gareth 😎

  • Chantal

    Oh dear. This entry brought me some tears this evening. My beautiful son will be turning nine this year, and my heart aches just thinking about it. Beautiful sentiments in this blog, for which I am so grateful. <3

  • Laura

    Oh dear .now I’m crying on the train to work !

  • Laura

    Oh no the rest of my comment disappeared . And here’s stop now. .

  • Angela

    Hi bella Sheryl,
    Thats so beautiful. Thanks for posting those lovely pics

  • Angela

    Happy 11 th birthday Everest. XxMy birthday is on 10th August. It is a special time the day you were born.
    I hope you got everything you wished for.

  • Leaf

    Happy birthday to you both/all, and a happy year, and many happy returns.

  • Besides this being one of the most beautiful Blog posts I have ever read, I believe you just re-wired my mind so that I can continue to successfully write. –

    “I think of each document – A Poem, a letter, a journal entry, an article, a blog post – as a thank-you note from God.”

    I have been met with so much internal resistance to writing lately, but with this perspective, forever changed. Thank you so much Sheryl for continuing to inspire and open my heart.

  • Lisette

    Happy Birthday sweet boy and happy 11years as a mommy. This was beautiful and made me weep. I have two boys. My sweet 4 year old and my curious scrumptious 22 month old toddler. I cry every birthday, every month my baby is older and I my heart sinks a little every night when I kiss their sweet faces to sleep by I know when they wake, they will be one day older. Thank you for bearing this bittersweet joy and pain with us.

  • Angela

    Thank you so much Sheryl. With much love xx

  • Clara

    Happy birthday, Everest! This post made my heart swell with sadness and light. I hope I can parent as consciously and as sensitively and as kindly as you, when my two little boys arrive in December. X

  • Nat

    Hi Sheryl!
    I’ve been reading your blog since October of 2014 and it’s been such a blessing in helping me realize so many things about myself I didn’t understand before. So much has happened since I started reading your blog and recently I finally feel like I understand my struggles enough to know what it is that I need to change about myself. I’m pretty self reflective (and hard on myself) and I can picture the person I want to be; However, I feel like there is so much about myself that needs fixing that I find myself very overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start. I feel like I have so many anxieties, fears, and insecurities all tangled together that I don’t know how to overcome them and I feel burdened because there’s so much.

    • It’s wonderful that you’re putting some pieces into place. As far as how to move forward, it’s very difficult to grow alone, as we all need guides to help us make sense and navigate the way. If you’re not in counseling, I highly recommend that you consider it.

  • Nat

    Also, I’m learning how my childhood has played a huge role in the anxieties and fears I face today. And I also have noticed how much my misunderstanding of men in general made my relationship very hard and confusing for me for so long. I was wondering if you had any posts on understanding men and how they are different from woman? I’ve looked up articles on the internet that I have found really helpful and that have relieved a lot of my anxiety I had that were due to misunderstandings of the male species but I believe there is still so much I could learn to better understand them.

    • Han

      Hi nat,

      I definitely think like sheryl said you should see a therapist to help you because this will help you loads. I started seeing a therapist and it’s helped so much. Growing as a person with therapy and reading the articles through sheryls site not only helps yourself but also the relatonships in your life with your family, friends and partner. And with the understand men, I don’t know what to say to that because I don’t think us women will ever truly understand men and they will never understand us women haha!

  • Alisa

    I absolutely loved this post. I can relate to what you are saying on so many levels. Transitions for me are hard. They always have been but I never really understood that about myself until about 2 years ago when I started therapy. Now I acknowledge to myself that transitions are hard….big and small….and cry to grieve when I need to. It has helped me enormously as a way to honour myself and my needs and also to stay present in the moment. Thanks for your writings.

  • Jennifer Nangle

    As always – your posts about your children touch me DOUBLY….You are so beautiful with your words and most importantly with your soul. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post!

    Jennifer

  • Just beautiful. Continued blessings to you all.