There is something so significant in the relationship with one’s firstborn. You were the fire that tried me. And I know that often, so often, I failed in the flames. And yet, there you were, handed to me in that room, a perfect gift to a mother so unworthy.
I studied you and you seemed to know that I was utterly clueless. Oh, I had my ideas, my goals, all dashed at the first nursing when you would not latch. Would indeed bunch your face into howls and screams and I would search for your pain, and it seemed that the cries of my heart were flowing into you. And out of you.
Maybe it was my own struggles that made you flail angry fists at my breast.
I tried, my love, but I know that those first years were a trial for us both. And now I look at you and I see a glimmer and those flames, in the distance but coming closer with each year. A new trial, letting you go, bit by bit. And you are becoming a man, and still I know so little, and I wonder at how we got here so fast.
One moment you are awkward toddler thighs with rolls of fat stumbling around the living room grasping at every edge to pull yourself up, to grow and move and escape my grasp.
The next, you are gaining on me in height, soon you will tower above me. I no longer win when we arm wrestle but you do make an excellent unloader after our Costco trips. I can no longer carry you cradled tight against me, and even though my arms will always embrace you, you pull away more. You are finding your space.
I see so much of myself in you, more than either of us would probably like. I see it in your ability to grasp things quickly and also in the tendency to hold this gift loosely and not foster it as you should. I see it in your clumsiness, sorry son. I see it in the dreams you have and that pensive look you get when you hold broken back and worn pages of a loved book. I see it in your off sense of humor and the jokes you tell when you’re not trying to be funny, your observations on life and people and me.
But there is also so much of you that is contrary to the very form of me. The part of you that loathes solitude and clambers for the next opportunity for company. The part of you that would have a steady stream of visitors and friends and loves noise and busyness like I love quiet and rest. The part of you that yearns to always be in the middle of it all, who would gladly go shopping with me just to spend the time together, alone. To have my full attention.
I haven’t done this well. The time when I see you. Just you, without siblings, my attention divided across needs and noise. I will try harder to be that for you, because I know that you are not the only one who needs it. I need it too, to see you.
I no longer have my eyes trained on your every movement when we go out. I let you wander farther each year, out of my sight, away from the tight clutch of a mother’s hand navigating parking lots, and crowds, and paths curved sharp and steep. But even though I don’t need to supervise your every move, hovering above you like a hen guarding her chick, know that I still see you. That I will always look for you, even when you are hidden beneath those unintelligible mumbles or the hair that you won’t let me cut.
I will always search you out.
So often, I see the things that are so like me and I know that in many ways, I am tougher on you than your siblings. I know you may feel this is unfair and that I see only the flaws and I ache at that. Because son, I see it all.
The potential and the giftings and the glory of God put right into you and the man who you will someday be and the struggles I know are coming because I struggle too. And I see it so clearly. And sometimes I panic and try to lead hard.
And my voice rises and the urgency of all the lessons and learning you need to pack in and carry with you, and years flying by too quickly make me obsess and come down hard. But really, I should be leaning hard, into God, for you and with you.
You made me a mom, and we both know trial by fire. So I say, let it come, I am with you.