Eight is Great

Early this morning, at 5:22, my first-born turned eight years old. He used to look like this:

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Now, he looks like this:

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I am not an overly nostalgic person when it comes to reflecting upon the passing years of parenthood. It’s all still too fresh. I’m still in the trenches. Every hour, every minute at times, is felt and acknowledged. So, when people ask, “Can you believe Henry is eight?” my answer is always a resounding, “Yes.” I can believe Henry’s eight. Where others are taken aback by the dramatic passage of time, I’m not. Because, I’ve been living it. Day in and day out. So, eight seems about right to me. And, I remember just about everything from each of those eight years.

I remember Henry’s unwillingness to nap as an infant. How he compensated with excellent nighttime sleeping. How I learned to not hold a grudge.

I can remember how plopping him in front of a bin of board books would occupy him long enough so Bob and I could eat dinner. His little dimpled baby hands manipulating those heavy pages.

I can remember strangers stopping me in line at the coffee shop or grocery store to tell me how lovely his eyes were. How I felt when the doctor broke the news he would have to operate on them.

I remember the transition when the pristine soft baby skin on his knees and elbows gave way to the bruised, scarred rough skin of toddlerhood. How I realized with sadness that they would never go back.

I can remember wondering if he would ever run out of words to say or activities to narrate. He was always, always talking.

I remember his first day of Kindergarten when I could barely wait to pick him up. That one humbling morning we were all reduced to tears when he refused to go to school at all.

And, I will never forget the first time he read me a story with fluency and accuracy. That moment when I knew it had all clicked in his head.

All of those moments and so many, many more have led up to eight. Here we are. Henry is a kind, considerate, thoughtful, patient, loving, empathetic, smart and funny kid. A dozen times a day we are reminded of what an incredible young man our oldest son is becoming.

Frankly, we are absolutely enamored with him. Bob and I frequently exchange glances and smiles when he does or says things that prove his maturity. We’ve been parenting wee kids so long that when Henry acts even remotely grown-up, like comforting his sister when she is upset or retrieving a snack for his brother, we find it incredibly charming.

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And, lest you think it’s all rainbows and unicorns around here, let me point out that there are certainly times when Henry and I butt heads. He takes his role as Big Brother very seriously and, at times, has trouble remembering that he is only eight and not actually the parent-in-charge. There can be tears and lost tempers born from frustration but those moments are becoming less frequent as we pass through the glory years between irrational little kid and emotional tween.

So, for the most part, our days with Henry are filled with relative ease and his independence offers a break from the manual labor portion of parenthood. The years of diapers and bottles and hitting milestones have given way to more autonomy and deeper conversation and an expanding worldview. He’s fun to talk with and asks the most interesting questions about life and history and religion and the circumstances of others. A few of which, I am woefully unprepared to answer.

I am beyond excited for Henry’s future. Sometimes, I almost can’t wait to see what this handsome, bookish, glasses-wearing, Lego-obsessed kid grows up to be.

Happy birthday, Henry. Your heart is as big as your body. I love you for that.

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