Thursday, August 29, 2019


Julian turned ten a few days ago.  TEN. Honestly, it's hard for me to even find the words to celebrate him. There's just so much there and some of it quite complicated.  Once again, about a week before his birthday, something was going on... I can't remember what exactly but I looked at him and he looked at me and I said, "Oh. You're ten now. It happened."    Turning ten is huge, the "first big number," as poet Billy Collins said. And there are a lot of examples where this is true and maybe I'll put them down here:

1.  Julian had a birthday party this year. His first ever, where it was just kids, no parents and actual games and activities planned.  In all the years before we would have a park gathering with cake and a pinata and then when we moved here where no one goes to parks, we invited people over and did basically the same thing.  One year, for his 7th birthday, we did invite kids and people for a dance party but parents were included and we didn't do anything but set up a dance floor with spinning lights and music and Julian was there about 30% of the time. But it was freakin' fun for those of us who just needed to get our dance on to ring out the end of summer.   This year he said he'd like a party and we considered it and realized he could handle it whereas years before, we conjectured he'd likely end up being the birthday kid who had to spend it in his bedroom due to overwhelmed'ness and hard to control emotions.  Also it always sounded like a big drag to me, i'll be honest.

But, we decided we could do it and he deserved it. He invited 12 kids, boys and girls.  He thought of the jello-eating contest which was awesome. We had three categories of prizes: the clean award, speed award, and style award. Prizes were school supplies- ha ha ha. But cool ones, like black pencils and a battery-operated pencil sharpener.

We also had pin the glasses on Julian and a huge inflatable water slide.  Always a winner.

We played a get-to-know-you game called Three Weird Things. I made everyone come with three weird things about themselves to share because I celebrate weirdness and it's much more fun to have weird things in common than something normal.  If, when you said your weird thing, someone else said "me too!" you both get an M&M from the bowl.  The kids were hesitant at first but after someone started sharing, the others warmed up and it was pretty magical. I especially loved when the twins would share things like "[holiday] is my half-birthday."  "me too!"  Good job, twins.

Beforehand, he and I practiced how to receive gifts. I'd throw out different things and make him practice responding nicely and equally to each one:

"Smelly sock!"

"This is great, thank you!"

"Lego set you've been wanting for a long time! Keep it fair."

"Oh, awesome, so thoughtful, thank you!"

He did so well and, though I could tell he had some party overload, he kept up the enthusiasm and graciousness.

So, he's come a long way.

2. School started three days later.  He began the 4th grade and wanted to ride his bike to school. He got a new bike lock and was excited about it.  I jogged along with him realizing how silly it was. Because he clearly didn't need me and I couldn't even keep up. After helping him lock up the bike, we hugged and parted ways.  This is a huuuuuuge difference from a few years ago when he would cling to me and cry and I'd have to peel him off me, shove him in and slam the door.  Last year he was pretty nervous but had a friend in his class.  This year he didn't know of any friend in his class and still was a-ok to go on his own.   His independence astonishes me more and more. I guess all of this is pretty standard but still, it's so weird when kids change so drastically and you're like, what?

3. He's not afraid to be alone. He doesn't have a lot of friends but he's content to either be on his own or join the group, whoever it is.  He'll play with kids and never learn their name.  It's amazing to me. I often remark to Sean how I'd have never done that as a kid. But then, i didn't have to, I had all these siblings.  He often tells me stories from school, how sometimes he'll eat lunch alone or sometimes he'll find some people or they'll find him.  He is so nonplussed about it. I admire that so much.  Such a champ.

Other things about Julian:

4. He generally thinks fast food is gross. (Except for you, Chik-fil-A. {heart}) It could be one of his Weird Things.

5. He will spontaneously declare, "Life is a gift!"  I think I've been morbidly telling him his whole life to just be grateful for every new day because you never know what's going to happen. But I stand by it. I think I heard a quote from Black Panther about how, if a parent doesn't prepare his/her child for the parent's death, they will have failed as a parent.  And I was like, yeah! Yeah.

6. He loves to read with me. I've decided you're never too old to be read to and even if you are, I don't care, I'm still going to do it when you're 18.   We read a bunch of books together this summer and it's my favorite thing.

7. We were sitting together one day talking about life and things and I casually mentioned a hypothetical situation describing if he were to get mad at me for something and he said to me, "Mom, I've never been mad at you!"  And I sat there and choked up a little when I realized he's right. He's never been mad at me. He's been upset and frustrated and super rage-y at times but I was never the subject.   And I vowed to never be mad at him again. I might get upset or angry too, but it will never go to him.

8.  He apologizes for things from the past, so unnecessarily. Things where he recognizes it might have been difficult for me.  For example, I used to take him to a kid hair cutting place in Bklyn that was also a toy store with cool toys and a train table. Like, it was the best. The seats for the haircuts were race cars and you could choose a movie to watch.  But it was a struggle. One day not long ago, he said to me, "Remember that haircut place I used to get my hair cut at? I HATED it. I am SO SORRY."   He was four when we moved away.

9. And a good quote from several months ago:

"Reality never agrees with my ideas! I have all these good ideas and reality RUINS IT."  {cry face}

10. And one from a few days ago:

"I don't think I make very good sarcasm, and I'm going to have to when I have kids."    

True story, son. Let's keep practicing.

To close, I'm experiencing a shift, a turn of the tide.  Like I'm stepping way and Sean's stepping forward. They go on bike rides or running every night to make sure they both get in some exercise. He has taken Julian camping a few times this summer. I told Sean I wanted him to go and teach him everything.  It is weird though, to be #1 for ten years and then be like, I think less of me would be better. I guess all parents have a moment where they realize they need to step back and this has been a big one for me. He's growing up and I just hope I don't get in his way.

To really close, I should like to leave the poem by aforementioned Billy Collins. It's a little depressing but that never deterred me none. I read it on Julian's birthday to some family members and again at a friend gathering some days later and bummed everyone out. But I love it:

On Turning Ten
Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.


Now for a bunch of pictures.
"Why would anyone sit in a chair normally when you can sit sideways?" CONCUR.

Sean always reluctantly makes me a sand sculpture and then does it way too close to the water.
This one was wiped out 30 seconds after this picture. Sort of makes me mad. 

As much as he loves it, Julian is freaked out at the ocean and insists on wearing this life jacket, which I fully support. 

There are too many pics here but I realized I am much better at printing blog books than I am regular photo albums. 
hiking buddies
piano practice: a separate universe.

recital time

all the awards

make yourself at home, julian. honestly, it's his happy place. here he is reading and giggling like crazy on the nasty library couch, making it nastier with a full sprawl. 

Sean sent this to me the other day and said they're still working on braking. But check out the skid mark! Also this was exactly how he looked. Sean made him freeze after the crash so that he could take a pic. Good job, Sean.
Occasionally we try to carry Julian how we used to. Sometimes I'll have Sean hoist Julian up onto me so I can carry him on my hip for .2 seconds before I collapse and break all my bones. 

To prolong the bedtime, I'm sure, Julian always has something up his sleeve as he's getting ready for bed. Often it's a skit or performance of some kind with costumes. This one was a presentation of "Julian Two" and.. ho-ly crap, i'm shook. He actually did apologize for the terrifying antler feet; it was all he could find. We were like, "so you wanna go to bed with that thing there?? Nighty night." 

We took him school shopping even though he didn't really need anything nor care about anything except for finding a sport coat. He is hoping to look really cool this year and this jacket fit the bill.  So dang funny. He couldn't decide between a normal blazer and a velvet one. We urged him to choose the velvet, which he did, and it is awesome. Cracks me up.

We made buttons at a museum a few days ago and he asked me to pin his to his bum. I asked him if I could put this pic on Instagram and he said no but he didn't say anything about my blog and I didn't ask. 

another Seansterpiece

backyard party

everywhere but.
I was really proud of the gift bags filled with Julian-specific items + a few extras:
boxes of jello
instant mac 'n cheese
trident gum
post-its and erasers
little practical joke/prank toys
kitty cat bookmarks
and i can't remember what else. but it all made me laugh. "here's your box of jello, thanks for coming!"

official summer list of 2019. well done, everybody.
And the first day of fourth grade. Teacher: Mrs. Kaylor.  Feelings: Quite ambivalent.

"Well, here's to another year of pain and suffering!" 

this blog post brought to you by bedtime bathroom selfies.


Joel said...

2. Allison started to ride her bike to school occasionally last year, which was also her first year without Sam in the school with her. So I followed her in the car several times just to make sure everything was good. Now she's the big sibling watching over Clara.

3. Sam is a little like this in that he doesn't have large numbers of friends. He does okay with the youth at church and campouts and such, but it more the quantity over quality type.

5. Yesterday Clara told Katie that she would take care of James after Katie died. So sweet and disturbing at the same time. So I guess we've already prepared her...

6. I can totally picture you invading Julian's dorm room with picture books and cocoa for him and his roommate. "Good Night Moon..."

8. Sam totally does this. Maybe it's a firstborn thing? He's so considerate, always worrying about us.

I'd call the poem more wistful than outright depressing.

Velvet blazers FTW. I have a red velvet blazer I really only feel I can wear on Christmas. or if we ever get a fancy night out on the town.

)en said...

I feel terrible about the idea of kids shouldering parental stress. But at the same time, I see how aware it makes him and thoughtful and can only see it as another good way to prep for adulthood. Just keep it real, right? Honest and real. It's all I can do.

Agree about the poem. Wistful, poignant. I love the idea of someone looking back at that age as an adult and writing about it. For are we not all ten? Still?

Red velvet! Yes, must bring this out more. And blog about it.

Love Clara's creepy/tender comment. Kids totes think about it! When Julian was small he said that after I died, he thought he'd like a tiger mom. Maybe he meant one that was like, super hard on him and pushed him to accomplish a lot.

Watching kids navigate friend-making is kind of crazy. It's just like, a tumultuous time. Figuring out what you like, what you don't like, what you'll tolerate for a year, perhaps. What's worth it to you. That's a major component of my elementary years, the different kinds of friends I had. Few lasted through Jr. high/high school/beyond. Like one or two.