shoulder height and the bittersweet bank of the heart


So I noticed today while walking astride Thing 3 who is 7 that my forearm can rest on his shoulder now. It can sit around the back of his neck letting my hand loosely hang off his other shoulder.

What used to be too distant for me to touch without crouching over, the top of his head, is now at an awkward angle for the palm of my hand to rest naturally. So I descend to the shoulder, with emotional resistance, a full six inches below. I think to myself, “really? has it come already?” It’s so bittersweet.

This wasn’t possible three months ago and it’s this benchmark and others that a mother, or a parent, notices as her brood grows up. While the awareness is instantaneous and the reaction is profound, the announcement is embargoed. We don’t want to actually broadcast this news or admit it’s true. It’s different from watching the numbers go up on the scale at the pediatrician’s. What used to kill my aching back, the hunching over to assist him while walking, is no longer necessary, no longer needed. These changes are different from changing the pant sizes or the shoe sizes, because you expect those to happen — they become a part of the financial budget and practical matters of the household.

But what no one tells you about when you first become a parent is the notion of transactions in the bank of the heart and soul. How the first sounds of a newborn’s goat bleating-like cries and shaky tiny fists and onion-skin fingernails don’t last forever. How the absolute purity and blessing of every innocent child’s fleeting little kidhood vaporizes before your eyes. That baby teeth don’t fall out forever. That training wheels only come off once. That velcro shoes are convenient but don’t foster bonding between parent and child. That even though the moments are trying, you need to make deposits during those moments of disagreement and those moments of bliss because they are all fugitive and the interest rate on them magnifies over time. Their values increase, but they can’t be cashed in; it’s not like you get to make an exchange in say 9 years for the disagreement about a curfew on the last time you picked up your toddler by the straps of his overalls like a six-pack… because you didn’t know it would BE the last time. So you didn’t make the deposit. That’s ok. But it stings.

This morning on the walk to school the sun was napping behind the clouds and the birds were chirping. They called to us in a pattern of 5 tweets … pause … 5 tweets …. pause … 5 tweets … and I decided we would stop for a moment and listen. I wished I could stop time. Thing 2 said, “They’re singing a song, Mom.” So he starts to beatbox and do his best non-Justin Beiber impression while Thing 1 opens his arms like an airplane and says something like, “tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet … … …  tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet … … … “

“C’mon Mom! We’ll be late for school! … … … tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet … … … “

He’s all about business; he can brush his teeth on his own now, Thing 3; but I like to pretend he can’t.  He makes his bed, in his own sublimely wonderful way, on his own. I like to give him socks that are too small so that I can pretend he still wears them. He likes to walk home from school without me but lights up when he sees me on the path and bounds into my abdomen where if I could, I would swallow him whole. I would swallow them all whole. Just to remember the safety and the security of knowing where he is, where they all are, at all times. 

“The world can be a cruel place,” I say without speaking, closing my eyes and deeply smelling his hair. Another day, another deposit in the bank of the heart.

Thank you.

ps – play with the fish on the upper right corner of this blog page. take your cursor and click on them to feed them. they will come to “you” and follow you. Thing 3 loves the fish.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

One response »

  1. Just what I wanted to do…get teary eyed. Don't I have enough to do? I'm gonna miss the smelling the head – thing. It's one of my favorites.

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