The realization that Arlo had grown during our travels this summer hit me as we made are way through the airport in Malaysia. No longer does he need help carrying his pack through airports, he breezes through security check points, he hops off the night train at 4:30 am without a word, he can hike for 6 hours through the mountains of Sapa, make friends with the Hmong street girls under the late-night full moon. He has jumped 15 feet from a Junk boat in Ha long bay. He can navigate busy subways and even rode the Shrek coaster with his hands up high at Universal Studio Singapore.

Like pieces of a puzzle it all starts to come together as I board the bus to Kuala Lumpur. I stare out the window but I only see glimpses of the green tree’s, the distant rolling foothills, the steady stream of traffic. Instead 6 years unfolds in the reflection before me. Arlo’s tiny body the day he was born, his toothy grin on his first birthday, sticky hands and vanilla kisses on the second one, running along side of him , carefully letting go as he took his first ride around the park without his training wheels when he was three, the wonderful laughter that escaped his small lips when the Buffalos in Yellowstone greeted him on the morning of his 4th birthday, the fun he had at chuck  e cheese with Hank on his fifth.  As the sun sets over the highway my thoughts race with the lights streaking across my window.  Tender kisses, little fingers and toes, life on the farm, sleepless nights and chicken pox, christmas mornings and “rainbrellas”, leg cramps and fevers, long walks with the dogs and tractor rides with Papa, broken arms, sweet potatoes smiles and words of pure love pouring from his lips. Six times around the sun….

As the bus speeds through the dark my mind spirals forward  those 6 years went so fast… What if the next six go even faster?? Silas will be old enough to drink in bars! Zeb will be driving, Arlo will be…oh god, he will be old, I will be old…no one will need me anymore… I feel a little panicky(obviously)  …I want to cry my life is moving too fast…….deep breath it is not 2016 just yet…saying 2016 out loud helps me calm down wow that sounds  so far away no need to freak…back to the present. But, the melancholy feeling weighs heavy on my heart. It’s hard to let go. I haven’t had a child hit the ripe old age of 6 without another one crawling his way into our hearts in 15 years but, Arlo is our last..he will always be the “baby”.. but maybe no longer my baby…I see him looking to his big brothers now wanting to please them more than me ( which usually means doing something gross). He is growing up venturing outside of my orbit. Many milestones lay before him this year. Losing his first tooth, starting first grade, words coming into focus opening the door to the world beyond me. I know he will take two steps forward into Independence and one step back into my waiting arms again and again this year.  I have to wait for those opportunities;cherish every moment he wants to cuddle or ask for a story, be thankful that for now I can still kiss away the pain of a boo boo, and that an ice cream cone can make anything better, hold on tight to that little hand as it reaches for mine in the dark.

According to Rudolph Steiner’s  “stages of development ” I have one child in each of the first three stages. He words ring true in my experience. During the first seven years a child feels nurtured, safe and loved when he is kept close to mom/dad.  They believe that you know everything, can do anything ( even sing) and will always protect them. The next 7 years pull a child into the world outside of our “invisible” fence..seeking answers from others, realizing that we (mom/dad) don’t know everything (and can’t sing), developing their own opinions, wanting a “life” beyond the family. Then comes 14-21 puberty, adulthood, growing inward seeking answers from within,  pushing away from family, making their mark.

I love watching the boys unfold into young men but I will miss the simplicity of having a young child, the open heart that allows our relationship to be effortless.  As our children grow our connections become complicated.  I can no longer protect them from themselves, I can’t make everything alright with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies( although it does help) , my heart breaks with their growing pains, they don’t always like me or need me. I have to let them make mistakes, fall down, get up and become men. No longer am I the center of their world even though they will always be the center of mine.  ….So here I am. Days away from number 6….. worried that my baby is gone but then I glance to the right of my computer and see the picture Lo drew me today. We are holding hands on a boat it says MOM at the bottom, with a heart for the o. I hear his sleepy sighs from the bed where he is curled up waiting for me to lie down as I settle in he’ll murmur Mama. His little arm will find its way around my neck…..

There are 365 more days before he completes his next journey around the sun…365 more days to hold onto my baby.

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