Gryffin will turn 8 in a few days. He was born just after the Beijing Olympics and just before Barack Obama became president of the United States. It was the year of the financial crisis. The year when Nelson Mandela turned 90, Facebook started gaining momentum, Beyoncé released “Single Ladies,” the Celtics won the playoffs and the Phillies won the World Series. In the midst of all of this, in a quiet room at Swedish Hospital, on a Sunday night in late September, a boy was born.
We have a few friends dropping their firstborns at college this month. One of them posted online about helping their daughter unpack in the dorm room and then driving home alone. I had been tidying up the house and I still had a few stray LEGOS clutched in my hand as I sat on our stairs reading that post. It occurred to me then that next year, Gryffin will be halfway there. Halfway to eighteen. I had been busy bustling all around, picking up toys and putting away soccer cleats and not feeling even remotely sad but when I realized that Gryffin was almost at that milestone, I surprised myself by suddenly crying harder than I have in a really long time.
Our kids are so close in age that Gryffin reaching a milestone means Isaiah is right behind him. Gryffin getting to the midway point is essentially the same as Isaiah getting to it and I feel a seizing in my chest to realize we’re nearly halfway finished with parenting our boys at home.
I read an article by Barbara Bradley Hagerty on NPR the next day about how to survive and thrive in middle life. And I had the same sort of realization. I didn’t burst into tears or anything but dang! Middle age. I hadn’t considered it until that moment but it’s true. If I’m not quite middle-aged yet, I’m certainly circling the periphery. Like my boy spinning closer and closer to the midway point of his childhood, I’m nearing the midway point of my own life.
So I’m both mid-life and mid-parenting. It’s strange, really. So much of parenting is hard and so much of life is hard. Parenting this weekend was exhausting and frustrating and full of tears and grade-school angst. And to me the world right now seems a hot mess of sadness and injustice and fear and death. Yet the thought that I am halfway done with either is terrifying. Because the sunrise over the mountains this morning stopped me mid-step. And there is a tree a few blocks from our house that turned a brilliant pink-orange over the weekend. Because Jason and I laughed so hard a few nights ago that we nearly fell off the couch. Because I got to watch my boys in their first-ever soccer game last Saturday and Gryffin traced the outline of my face with his finger yesterday.
Life is horrible and life is luminous. At the same time. Yet the luminous bats last because I want it to keep going. I don’t want it to stop. And I’d like for both of my boys to know the fullness and the resplendence of life, even though there will be horrible things along the way.
Too dark and twisty for a birthday blessing? Nah. Happy Birthday, Gryffin. May this next year be filled to the brim with all the things that make life luminous for you — cars and Legos and license plates, Garfield and croissants, bottle caps and nutrition labels.