It's been a good year. Between the ages of nine and ten, Nathan has returned to hugging and kissing me. He's not even wiping off the wet ones. I do not know to what I owe this this tectonic shift of affection, but I certainly won't complain. It's a beautiful thing to say that you enjoy your child's company - and mean it. And I can say that it's true that I am enjoying Nathan and the young man that he's becoming. It's become routine in the last several weeks that he come and find me before bed, appease my request for a kiss, and head upstairs. He disappears around the corner, only to peek his head back into view after a few seconds.
"Bonne nuit!" he says with a grin, then disappears again.
"Bonne nuit!" He has reappeared: an apparition with a grin. "Bonne nuit!"he says with emphasis, as if this time, it's for real.
And there may be five or ten more repetitions of this goodnight charade (which, most nights, I find amusing) before finally, I hear him obediently climb the stairs. Upstairs, his door creaks open, and I imagine him climbing high into his bunk bed, keeping watchful eye over his little brothers below.
Over the last year, Nathan has grown into the love and loyalty of that are characteristic of big brothers. With Andrew and Colin, he's especially helpful, kind, and patient. (I can't comment on his treatment of his sisters here. This is a birthday blessing, you know.)
Andrew and Colin mirror his every move. If Nathan takes a morning shower and combs his hair flat, Andrew must have his hair combed in exactly the same way. If Nathan wears soccer cleats, Colin wants soccer cleats. If Nathan forgets to kiss the twins at school drop-off, they run after him. He always obliges
Andrew and Colin desperately want Nathan's love and affirmation - they need to know how to do the big boy thing.
Nathan will continue to be the best kind of teacher.
If there is a memory I might cherish most from the past year, it's from earlier this fall when we went together as a family to a special prayer gathering for our church. Ryan was out of town; a sitter kept the twins. We were just four that night, but it was a critical mass for the smaller groups into which they split us for the evening.
Huddled together and hearing my children pray that night - especially Nathan - with Scripture as their guide and earnest requests as their supplications, I, like Moses, felt the need to remove my shoes.
This speaks to how mothering really feels. It is often this kind of holy work - only you stand aside, apart from the real event.
Something's ablaze; it's just not a fire that you ignited.
Father, continue your good work in our son, Nathan. He has been a gift, and we are grateful.