14 Years

My boys will be my babies forever. Their eyes, their smiles, the way they curl their fingers and toes, their favorite toys and the way they sleep, and every other detail I’ve filed away since the day they first became mine. No matter how old they get, I will never lose them.

This is the story I tell myself in order to live.

I’m telling myself the story now, that my children will always be here. I can’t imagine a future yet, where they won’t wake up and come down to breakfast, leave their coats on the kitchen table, take long showers, get irritated by my questions, or tell me that they love me. I can’t imagine not stepping over their shoes when I leave the house, or seeing their towels on the floor. Sometimes the give and take of parenthood feels lopsided, but when I think about who I would be without them, I think maybe there isn’t time to give back enough.

I have memories of sitting in the sand, sorting seashells and counting birds, watching a tractor collect bales of hay, appreciating the unique shape of headlights on a car. We choose to notice what is important to us in this world, but through them I recognize what I don’t notice and what I don’t see. I have been given this time to learn about life through other eyes, before they move on and leave me again with only mine. How will I see the world without them? Already, I see that there is so much I will miss.

My job has always been to keep them safe. The world is not safe, it never was, but it seems less so now that I have children old enough to go to the mall alone. We teach them to be careful around fires and hot stoves, to tie their shoes, wear a seat belt, and make sure they look both ways before crossing the street. When they’re little we put them to sleep on their backs, and hold their hands to keep track of where they are. How do we do that as they get older?

Our worry transitions to their minds, their feelings, and I want to make sure they’re safe enough to love, to cry, to dream. I know they need to go figure out the world on their own, but I want to protect their hearts. How do we keep those from getting hurt?

It’s easier when we inhabit the same life, but even a family, living the same life, does not remember events the same. A snow storm; where we lived and whether we liked it; what someone said, or what they meant? Whether you were loved. Some of those memories don’t really matter but for others, the consequences are huge. They can mean a lifetime of joy or a lifetime of grieving regrets that may not be true. Life, then, is a subjective story, of memories made unreliable by our perception.

Right now, the story is that I love them. That they have made me grow into a better person, and that even though we may disagree about video games or bedtime, all of our faults are perfect and they are the most precious things in my life.

I hope this is one day the memory, too.

“The Book of Love is long and boring,

But I love it when you read to me.

It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes

And things we’re all too young to know.

The book of love has music in it

That’s where music comes from,

And I love it when you sing to me

You can sing me anything.”

Thank goodness for the poets of the world. My Jake and my Eli, for 14 years you are my greatest joy, my deepest fear. How blessed I am to have been granted this definition of love that includes you.