Jack turned nine years old on Monday and while I feel so privileged to share my life with him, to watch him grow and blossom, it seems the years are passing too quickly. There are days when I'm caught up in the day-to-day routine and I forget just how precious this time is; and then there are moments when I take a step back, look at him with fresh eyes and think, 'Who is this big boy?'
I know that there comes a time when mothers and fathers are no longer the centre of their child's world and I accept that -- it's all part of growing up. I take great comfort in the quote by Hodding Carter: "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings." I also know there will come a time when his peers are equally, if not more, of an influence and I'm anticipating that, but I don't have to like it.
Already I see him noticing differences between how many of his friends at school live and play and our choices -- even something as simple as never having had access to any TV channels is creating an "us" versus "them" awareness.
The other day when we were out of town, we stopped for lunch in a restaurant that had sports playing on ceiling-mounted TVs. His eyes kept tracking over to the TV and when I asked him to stop, he said "I'm sorry, mum, but all the kids at school are talking about the sports teams and I don't know what they're talking about."
This lead to a conversation about how it's OK to be different and it's important to live by your own belief system (which may eventually change from ours, I know) and not follow what 'everyone else' is doing, but I worry that for now, being 'different' might become a fairly heavy burden for a sensitive soul to bear.
Or take the 'toys' that kids play with today: I'd say a huge majority of children at the kids' school have some kind of a handheld games system, such as a DS or DSi. Everywhere I go I see kids zoning out over one of these gadgets -- at the arena, on the school bus, in the classroom, even on field trips. Kids aren't talking to each other face-to-face anymore -- they're 'chatting' though a screen.
I worry that young children are losing the ability to use their imagination to pretend play, to create, to wonder and to simply notice the world around them. Childhood is so short -- it seems such as waste to spend it glued to a machine.
Regardless of their popularity, my kids do not, and will not, have one of these gadgets. Lucas and I have talked to the kids about our concerns and expressed how much we value and marvel at their ability for creative play, and they seem to understand, accept and even agree with our decision.
This doesn't mean we are complete Luddites: Lucas' parents know how much Jack loves music and so they gave him a basic iPod for Christmas. Are we hypocrites? Some might say so, but we're simply trying find a balanced co-existence in a tech-obsessed world.
Still, when it came time to give Jack his birthday gifts, we focused on some simple things: a couple of books, a small Lego building set, the promise of some handknit socks (which are still on the needles) and a dream pillow.
I used fabric from some old flannel pyjamas -- the tartan came from Lucas, the stars from me -- and filled the pillow with rice scented with lavender oil. The hand-stitched pocket on the front is filled with dried lavender blossoms.
When I tucked him in to bed last night, I was pleased to see the pillow snugged beside his face. I explained that I made it from our old flannels so that he knew we were always there to comfort him and that I scented it with lavender to help relax and soothe him as he drifted off to sleep. He simply smiled and said, 'thanks, mum.'
I'm sure when his friends ask him what he got for his birthday, he'll talk about the books, the Lego set, the new yo-yo that he got from a friend, but he won't mention his dream pillow. That's OK. While he often gets up in the middle of the night and crawls into our bed because he wants to be with us, last night he slept in his own bed. I'd say the dream pillow worked its magic and that's good enough for me.