After a whirlwind morning that included cheering Jack on as Third Ant in his class play (he faux-fainted so well I felt certain he'd broken himself), I am ensconced in my quiet, albeit incredibly messy, home. A pumpkin cheesecake is cooling in the oven, door cracked to release the hot air slowly. The spiced pumpkin scent is intoxicating. Though I mean to be typing, I find myself stopping periodically to close my eyes and inhale deeply. This is kitchen comfort at its best, and I am grateful for it. We are heading to Philadelphia later, happy wedding spectating in our future tomorrow, and I haven't packed. Y'all might know how I feel about packing. It's right up there with ironing and annual exams with the lady doctor. Long story short, I'm procrastinating and am more than ok with that.

It is the worst to worry about your children. Even tougher is that such worry can take many forms, like a multiplying shape-shifter of the worst kind. If you child is so feverish you're certain he's aboil, you worry about his physical state: he's in pain, and I can't do enough. If your child is the object of taunt or ridicule, your stomach aches on behalf of his: you want to wring the neck of the child(ren) who would challenge your baby's sense of self and stasis. When your child does something for the first time, be it school or a drop-off birthday party, you can think of nothing other than what he's experiencing until he's in your sights again: is he happy? was it fun? did he share? did he interact with others?

And when you see in your child, a behavior or a struggle or a trait that you know will challenge him mightily in the immediate, and perhaps long-term, future, you hurt. This kind of worry can't be ameliorated by teaspoons of Motrin, by discussions of the fact that not everyone else is as nice as we'd wish them to be, by hearing from him how fabulously great school and the birthday party were. No, this kind of worry is like a shitty weed in your garden; no matter how much you till and tend, that bugger will keep growing back until one day you decide to just live with it or find the magic bullet that will finally eradicate its insidious roots from your flowerbed.

Now that my darling firstborn has left toddlerhood firmly in his past, I see even more clearly the incredible gifts and talents he possesses. Really, you should have seen him on stage this morning; his fainting was Oscar-worthy. Or at the party after the last baseball game where he grabbed a chocolate cookie from the snack mom and without even thinking about it, broke it in half and passed an equal share to Oliver. I almost thought I'd never be more proud.

But I also see aspects of his being that are going to trip him up. And though I wish I could be the padding that makes every fall nothing more than child's play, I can't. Not least because ultimately, that would be a disservice to him. How will he know what he's capable of without the growth that struggle offers (forces)?

All I can do is hold his hand, offer the advice I have, be a shoulder to cry on and an open-24-hours-ear to listen. I can seek resources and advice, I can make star charts til the cows come home. But I can't learn lessons for him, and that just sucks.