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Change

By Sali Kai

This is a guest post from Sali-Kai, she guest posted with us about a year ago.  She is also an adopted member of the Segullah family (through Sharlee).  Welcome back! 

Change, it is a’comin’”

Didn’t someone sing that once?

Maybe not, but that’s the refrain banging away inside my skull these days.

Change.

Morning. School time. “Bye, boys,” I call from the door. “Have a good day! Make good choices! I love you!!”

“Love you too, Mom!” yells my first grader at the top of his lungs, the words ricocheting around the cul-de-sac like an echo in a canyon. Silence from my fifth grader.

I sigh as I close the door. This is scary business, this uncharted territory my eldest is taking us into.

He is not as he was.

What he was was a happy toddler belting out “Home, home on the range” in the back yard. What he was was a sociable preschooler coming to whisper glowingly, “Mom! I made a new friend!” What he was was the one always chosen in his class to be the friend/mentor to new students.

And now . . . .

I know how to kiss an owie and make it better. I know how to chase the boogie-man away. I know how to parent and nurture little people.

But my eldest isn’t a little person any more.

“Nothing is permanent but change.”

This one I know. Heraclitus said it.

I wonder if he was looking at his tween when he wrote it down.

Tween. That’s the term our label-loving society has assigned to my eldest’s age group.

Internet dictionary: Tween: A child between middle childhood and adolescence, usually between 8 and 12 years old.

But what does being a tween mean?

Well, I may not know what it means but I sure know how it acts!

Afternoon. I stand at the back gate of the schoolyard.

My fifth grader slowly approaches, one of an undulating, organically shifting group. His group.

“Hi, son,” I say cheerfully as they pass me.

On good days I get a short, “Hi,” back. Other days I get a flick of the eyes and a chin jerk in my general direction. The look is easy to interpret: “Mo-om! I’m with my friends!”

Fortunately my first grader shows up then. He grabs my hand and chatters non-stop about his day.

At home the fifth grader just wants to hurry through his homework and piano so he can call a friend. “Sit down and have a snack,” I say. During snack I ask each boy to tell me three things about his day.

I’ve learned that if I ask, “How was your day?” I only get a grunted, “Fine,” from my eldest.

The first grader is ready to repeat the whole walk-home-from-school conversation. My fifth grader reels off three short sentences in about 5 seconds. I ask questions to force him to add detail.

How does that story go?

A man approached a wise man and said, “I’m so worried about my teenager. I can’t get him to talk to me. How do I talk with my teenager?” The wise man answered, “Shrink him back down to a baby and start talking then.”

Did I talk enough when he was young? Did we talk enough?

Night-time. In the dark I rock the baby and softly sing a lullaby. “Mom?” comes a disembodied voice. The tension within me eases as I smile an unseen smile. “Yes?” I answer. This is when it comes. Here in the soft blackness of night he wants to talk. Silly things, mostly but sometimes real things. Big things. Important things.

“Oh, why don’t you just grow up!”

Isn’t that what even the best of us sometimes think and even what some of the worst of us sometimes say?

And yet how bittersweet when they do just that.

I think, all in all, Longfellow said it best:

“All things must change to something new, or something strange.”

Strange indeed! Change.

About Sali Kai

(Guest, January 17, 2007) asks: "I have a question: Who are we anyway?"

12 thoughts on “Change”

  1. Beautifully written, Sali-Kai!

    Yes, change is a strange and scary thing. Few things make me panic as much as the inexorable march of time. It's not so much that I mind growing old myself; it's that I don't want my children growing up and away from me!

    Isn't it interesting how they always want to talk late at night? Why is that, I wonder.

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  2. Yes–beautifully written! And stop it–you're scaring me! 🙂 I cannot even imagine what my little 7 month old will be like then, and that stuff scares me!

    What do you do? Accept and love and let them be who they are, I suppose?

    Scary stuff.

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  3. I hear you loud and clear. My oldest is that age too. Unfortunately, she doesn't have friends like your son. She struggles with carrying a conversation. She has a communication disorder which makes it difficult for her to organize her thoughts. But in other ways she is very much like your son. She wants to talk to me at night when the other kids aren't around. She wants to be so grown up so badly. I'm glad she is maturing, scared for what middle school will bring, and sad that I can't relate to her in the same way I used to. And to think I cried when she went off to kindergarten!

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  4. I never understand why I'm so surprised when things start changing. Change is the only thing I can count on happening. Yet it takes me by surprise every time…

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  5. Great post. I love this. I have a wise friend whose chidren have all grown up and she told me that the only way she could get her big boys to talk to her was to either be moving with them or eating with them and NEVER look at them. Then they let down their guard and talked and talked…

    My almost 8 year old is on the cusp of this and it is really scary…

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  6. Thanks for this post! My daughter is this age also and I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff just waiting to fall into teenagerdom. I think being a girl, she tends to talk more openly – but things are still scary and it is hard to reconcile that she is growing up and becoming her own person and that I am but a small part of her world, where she is such a big part of mine. "They grow up so fast" is really so true. I've noticed that my 8 year old son who doesn't talk as openly will talk and talk at bed time. I got sad in the children's section of the book store the other day when I realized that I have no need to buy any more lovely picture books for my growing up kids.

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  7. My nearly-11 son has hardly anything to say about school or church or friends — BUT if he gets going on Wii games or Nintendo or Legos, it seems endless. I hope I do a good enough job of listening to those things by nodding and saying "uh-huh" (which usually is all he asks of me, although once or twice I've gotten caught when he asks a follow-up question that stumps me — although he's also usually happy to repeat it all over if I missed part of it.) Anyway I hope my patience with those topics will make him feel free to talk with me about more important things, as needed.

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  8. My favorite way to sneak in one-on-one time and draw a few words out of my kids is to invite one on errands–especially the grocery store. Some are more talkative than others and some will tell you more than you want to know about some parts of their lives and keep other parts completely hidden. But even when you don't realize it they find your presence reassuring and they feel of your love.

    It's a really great adventure–I promise!

    Reply
  9. This is lovely, Kai. I remember talking to my mom at night, too. It's a time when the stresses of the day, for both parent and child, have begun to dissipate, inhibitions are lowered, interruptions are fewer, and then, there's a sense of security, talking in the dark. We all know that, right?

    Thank you, Sharlee, for inviting me.

    Reply

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