My little one turns four tomorrow. Where some cultures mark the passage of time by etching lines on a tree trunk or branch, I mark it here, on this blog. Am I marking time or trying to capture it? Am I holding on or bearing witness to the way the hours keep dancing forward? It’s impossible to ignore the passage of time when you’re raising little ones; there are some days when they literally look older and taller in the evening than when they woke up that morning. Some days I hold on tightly and mourn each ending. But tonight, as I snuggled my boy to sleep, I didn’t resist. I thought, “There will come a day when I won’t snuggle him anymore,” and it was okay because the next thought was, “I’ll have more time to snuggle my husband and my cat!” Love shifts and moves but it never disappears, and the love I’m pouring into my boys will one day flow through them to another source of their affection. That’s the way it should be.
I’ve often discussed how I’ve used these birthdays as opportunities to practice letting go so that when the time comes when I truly have to cut the apron strings and launch them into the world and their own loves, I can do so with grace. I honor my grief tonight, which isn’t so much grief as a bittersweet joy at the privilege of being Asher’s mother. I feel the tears through my smile as I write this. I reflect and ponder and remember the day he pushed out of me into the world, the agony of childbirth, how I screamed and the midwife said, “Bring that sound lower… lower still… lower still,” until the high-pitched scream turned into a low groan and I suddenly saw myself in an African bush, crouched down, primal, alone but surrounded by my female ancestors and the agony turned into bliss as they placed my brown perfect baby onto my chest and I cried out, “My Asher! My Asher! My Asher!” The birthing tub sat in the corner of my office, the room that births healing now as I guide my clients through their pain, shame, and joy, and somehow the two events feel connected, somehow my work as a mother births my work in the world and my work in the world informs my parenting.
I grieve and remember now so that tomorrow I will celebrate him with only joy. For my grief is not his grief; a child’s birthday is generally a time of happiness and excitement, a day solely focused on him with favorite foods and favorite activities. We’ll wake up and sing and go to the zoo and celebrate this milestone in his life, and my bittersweet experience will remain mine.
Based on his passions and temperament, we all like to wonder what direction Asher’s life will take. Everest thinks he’ll become an actor or a paleontologist, or both, and he’s probably right as Asher is passionate about dinosaurs and also seems to have a flair for theater. He loves going to Dinosaur Ridge, loves hearing about mammoths, blue whales, and sabertooth tigers, and loves going to plays. What a joy it is to watch the interests that emerged at a very early age spiral into deeper layers of understanding. What a privilege it is to nurture him into the man he will ultimately become.
My Asher, my little love, I send the prayer I send to you on each birthday: Happy Birthday, my little angel. May you walk through life guided by your Daddy, protected by your big brother, taught by your grandmother, and nourished by your Mommy. May you allow the warm waters of life to support you as you pass through the transitions that will grow you into the man you are meant to be. And thank you. Thank you for coming. Thank you for sharing the gift of your life with us.