Halfway:: A Letter to My Son on His 9th Birthday

Halfway. You are nine today and we are halfway through parenting you until you leave our home and set off on your own course. Actually, you are already on your own course. Your personality, intellect, and drive have already set you on a path of that is uniquely yours and we are the lucky ones who get to help and guide you your first 18 years. But we are halfway done with these 18 years and I am simultaneously looking back at how quickly we got here and looking ahead with excitement, but also some sadness, that it really is all so fleeting. Bittersweet never really made sense to me until I was a parent.

The First Nine Years

A photograph of a baby.

These first nine years were a whirlwind and required so much of me physically. You were a busy boy. You were always running and I was physically exhausted from keeping up with you. You never stopped moving. I think back to when you became a big brother at two and a half, and cringe at how my expectations of you were too high. I hope I’ve learned from that experience that transitions are tough and grace is the key to smoothing them out a bit.

We lived and breathed trains for a full year. This didn’t involve just watching Thomas the Train; it involved learning all the parts of a steam-powered train. The pistons. The boiler. The smokestack. And how they all worked together. Your little brain fascinated me. You were so creative in setting up trains in our house, but they were also so precise. I wish I could spend another afternoon with that sweet four year old discussing the merits of a steam train versus a diesel train.

A photograph of a young child wearing cowboy boots and sunglasses and with a box with a hole cut out of it around his waist.

Like a lot of moms, I don’t think I appreciated it enough. But maybe it’s hard to appreciate something when you are in it. It’s easy to look back and forget that while you followed me around the house talking trains, I also had a fussy baby with a bad case of reflux who constantly smelled of sour milk because she spit up so much. Or how I just wanted to sit down sometimes and couldn’t. Grace can smooth out our memories, too, and for that I’m grateful.

The Sweetness of the Halfway Point

A smiling boy wearing a camelbak outdoors. This halfway point is sweet though. I think it must be the reprieve period between over-active toddler/preschooler and angsty pre-teen/teenager. There isn’t much I have to do to take care of you physically, and we haven’t hit the really “BIG” issues yet. What’s the saying? Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.

I think that phrase needs some editing. While you may be “little” your problems seem big to you. I would argue the phrase should be altered to Little kids, little consequences. Big kids, big consequences. We aren’t at the big consequences yet, and the most contentious issue in our home is your amount of screen time and whether or not you should have a phone. {Side note:: NOT happening!}.

Your creatively precise mind is still at work when you build Legos and you are still running. You are competitive and can spout the results of almost every third-grade boy’s running endurance test. You have an incredible inherent sense of right and wrong. School comes easily for you and in a lot of ways we are gliding through these elementary-aged years with relative ease. I can see the edges of pre-teen moodiness creeping in though. The back-talk, the eye-rolling, the sighs, the frustration with us not allowing you to do something – it’s all happening more frequently. The phrase “everyone else gets to” is uttered several times a week.

You don’t want to ride your bike home from school with me anymore, and beg me to not yell, “Have a great day at school!” when I drop you off. But in the rare times we get a quiet minute just the two of us, you will ask me questions about things you don’t understand. Oftentimes, these are heavy conversations about race, class, and morality, and I’m amazed and proud that you are considering these subjects. You will talk to me about what is bothering you and admit to things you have done that you wish you had handled differently. I hope that I respond to these conversations in a way that encourages you to keep having them with me.

Looking Ahead

A smiling boy standing outside. I am under no illusion that the second half of parenting you over the next nine years will be easier than the first. I know your frustration about what we allow you to do or not do will only increase. The stakes seem higher when you are older. Those consequences really do get bigger and while we, as a family, rarely choose to live our lives in fear, I do recognize that your decisions as a teen-ager can have lifelong impact. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I really don’t know anything about parenting a pre-teen/teenager.

I do know you though. I see your strengths and your weaknesses. I anticipate you thriving in the areas you already are currently. Your intelligence, your sense of right and wrong, and your curiosity will take you to really cool places. I’m excited I get a side-line view of you coming into your own person. I can also see glimpses of future situations that will cause you anxiety and doubt. Your inner-critic is always at play, and while I want to run ahead and fix the potholes in your path so you can avoid hurt and confusion, I know that won’t serve you well. I pray that the foundation we have built these past nine years will stand firm over the next nine when you inevitably do hit a bump in the road. That you will still feel comfortable asking us the tough questions and admitting your own faults knowing you will find a safe place to land.

I still can’t believe we are halfway. I look back on the first nine years with an abundance of gratitude and a little bit of regret. I’m looking forward to the next nine with joy and a little trepidation.

Deep breath. The next nine years. Here we go.

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Halfway: A letter to my son on his 9th birthday. Logo: Houston moms. A photograph of a smiling boy standing outside.

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Sarah High is a Texan through and through. Born in Waco and raised in Houston, she attended school at the University of Texas in Austin and now lives in Sugar Land with her husband, Jordan, and two children, Hudson {2012} and Lucy {2014}. After working in legal marketing and business development, she stayed home after the birth of her first child determined to be the perfect stay at home mom. Reality set in, expectations were lowered, and now her main goal is to get her children to school on time with clean teeth and hair. Sarah likes to work out, enjoys the arts and restaurants Houston offers, loves to read and dance, and is always on the lookout for the best patio or French 75 in town. A recovering perfectionist, she continually seeks more grace for herself and others.


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