Unchartered territory

Sunday was hot, sticky and humid. We were in the home stretch of a busy weekend celebrating Canada Day with friends that included a couple of late nights and hours of outdoor playtime. Everybody was tired, and feeling low key and mellow. My youngest and husband napped contently. I curled up in a comfortable chair with a book and a tall refreshing glass of homemade ice tea. My oldest, C, wandered, hanging his head low because I had refused him more time with the Wii and the TV. I swear if I let him, he wouldn’t come up for air.

After a short period of sulking and brooding in his bedroom, he decided to join me.

For his birthday he received Bey Blades. They are just a jazzed up version of spinning tops. From what I understand, and as evidenced by his complete devotion to them in the week since his birthday, I gather they are all the rage with boys. He sat cross legged on the floor directly next to me, showing me how they worked. Over and over he would strap in the rip cord, chanting “1 – 2 – 3 – Let rip,” then sending them spinning endlessly, and rhythmically in a red plastic arena we’d given him to go with them. He was eager to demonstrate all the ways he could get them to “rip.” As his father quietly snored on the couch next to us, we quietly chit chated about his technique.

It’s not often that I have quiet time to just be with my boys. They are busy, boisterous, and physical . They jostle for my lap in the name of a cuddle that is often short-lived in favour of climbing, stepping, and kicking and wrestling. Sometimes I have to just stay “STOP.” Their physical nature can be overwhelming, not to mention hazardous.

So I was enjoying this time, playing quietly under the cool breeze from the ceiling fan, in a quiet house.

As we sat there, I took the opportunity to just watch him. To take him all in. I love to do this, to memorize their quirks and quarks, to learn their mannerisms, to reflect on their natural habits. No matter how often I do, I’m always struck by how little I actually know my boys and how highly individual they are. No matter how many moments I take to soak them in, they seem different every day. They’re growing and evolving faster than I can mentally catalogue the changes.

Right now, we’re in a period of difficult change with our oldest. He’s five and becoming more of a grown boy than I am comfortable with. Last week he finished his first year of school, and the transformation we’ve seen in him since September is staggering. Beyond the obvious learning he’s done, he’s become less self-assured, and so much quieter than he was before. He’s anxious in situations he’s not familiar with, and unwilling to try new things. He’s bold, and questioning. Just the other day he took his father by surprise when he challenged, “How come you get to do that and I don’t?”

At five.

This is unchartered territory for us. Though we recognize that it’s all part of his natural development, we also believe it’s proof of the outside influences I worried about at the beginning of the year. This year he learned to think for himself, and he’s shown us he’s willing to test its limits. He’s also reminding us that parenting isn’t for the feint of heart, and that every day we need to reinvent the wheel just to keep up.

So we’re struggling. We’re struggling to get to know this new part of him, to encourage his independence and free-thinking, but to set limits of our own that will help to guide him for years to come. I’m constantly questioning my approach, wondering how strict I should be and what should be let go. It’s like feeling around in the dark, you know the right way is there, but there will bumps and bruises along the way.

Sunday however, was a gift. The quiet, the time to just look at him and to think of all that he has already been and all that he will be. These are important moments for mothers, they help us find balance and to push forward through calmer waters.


7 thoughts on “Unchartered territory

  1. harrietglynn says:

    My son is going to be 2 at the end of the month and he feels like a totally different person lately. It’s interesting and terrifying. So far, I’d say all the changes are “for the good” if you will but he’s different and I know this will continue to happen. *sigh* I feel nostalgic for today again.

  2. Ah, five. Five is sassy and beligerent and sarcastic in ways that I, at 37, am JUST learning.

    Five drives this Mama to drink, even as he melts my heart. In the next breath, it seems, he hardens it and I narrow my eyes and drop my voice and ITCH to slap the smug defiance from his face. How can my adorable, sweet and loving li’l bug turn into such a little PUNK in a blink?


    I am also CONSTANTLY re-assessing and questioning how I’m raising Five. Well, and Three, who’s watching closely. Have a blog post in the works about my own realizations and attempts to change things up, even as they change.

    Five. Good times, mostly. But when times are bad? Freakin’ awful.

    You’re not alone, Mama. Not by a long shot. Glad you had Sunday. Those are the moments that allow us to keep going.

  3. Stacia says:

    “No matter how many moments I take to soak them in, they seem different every day.” Boy, does that ring true. How is it possible that they grow and change so fast? And how is it that they become their own little people with rational (and irrational) thoughts and quirks and preferences? It’s amazing and terrifying.

    And comparing parenting to feeling around in the dark? Yes, yes, yes.

  4. Chantal says:

    My M went through a similar change in JK. Before he was confident, funny and in command of his life. As it started he became shy, frightened, change averse and defiant. It was a hard time. Every kid is different but for us it lasted for 1.5 years. He seems finally be coming out of it. His confident self is coming back, he is happier, less afraid and more loving again. I am so glad because I missed his hugs and kisses. And when he tells me he loves me, well I could just melt right there!

  5. Pamela says:

    So beautiful. Thank you for the reminder to slow down and enjoy. We had a wonderful morning and it was due in no small part to this beautiful essay. My oldest is 5 now too. Somehow, 5 and a half became wonderful. But then, 3 and 4 were no joke in this house. I agree with you that 5 is SO BIG. How do they grow up so fast? Scott reminded me last night though that we still have time … they are only halfway to 10.

    Thank you again – beautiful!!

  6. Christine, I get this because my daughter is now 5 1/2 and her questions as well as her answers reflect an understanding which wasn’t present just a year ago. Fumbling? Yes. Enjoying it? When I reflected on it, I came to a resounding yes too. It’s my favorite age and I am relishing in all the surprises she offers me.

  7. Cathy says:

    I feel like I am in uncharted territory all the time. I am navigating the teen years and what once seemed so clear cut is not so easy. How much privacy do you allow but still keep a watchful eye? How much independence and freedom do you allow? How do you enforce the rules when they are too big to put in timeout? It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, just different waters to navigate.

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