About a Boy

It's really hard not to write about him so sometimes I do. Sometimes he lets me take his picture and sometimes he turns his back to me or makes a face. Sometimes he asks me to follow him and sometimes he tells me to leave him alone but he always takes it back. 

"Leave me alone."

"I hate to be alone."

I am the same way so I leave and come back and leave and come back and leave and come back. I tell him I will always leave and come back and leave and come back and leave and come back.

I follow him down the street. He's on his bike and even though he doesn't need training wheels anymore he has them anyway. He's not ready so we let them be. This is a child I know not to push. He does everything on his own time. Like walking. And speaking and knowing all the answers. He knows the rules to every game and knows to stop at every driveway and scolds me when I do something wrong like run a red light or listen to the music too loud. 
"I'm your mother so you can't tell me what to do."

"But you're breaking the rules so I can."

"One day you will break the same ones."

"Never," he says. 

He thinks he knows everything. He's going to be seven in a couple of weeks and sometimes, when I correct his multiplication he gets angry because I'm wrong! But I'm right.

"Believe it or not, sometimes I'm actually right."

When we go places together he doesn't like to talk to me. He is silent most of the car ride home and on walks, doesn't acknowledge me. I speak to the back of his head and it bounces off his helmet and gets caught underneath a car. 

"Are you listening?"

"Where are we going?"

"Archer? Are you listening?"

And then, out of nowhere, a thought. About the universe and how we're all walking around in skin that's made of stars.
About growing up and how he doesn't want to, but sometimes he does. (You get to eat ice cream for dinner and build real life cities.) About intersections and why it's important to slow down when the light turns yellow instead of speeding up.

"Usually, yes. But there are other times...  Sometimes it's safer to run the light. Like, say, if I was stuck in the middle of an intersection... we have to use our best judgement, you know?"

"You can't break laws, Mom."

"It's more complicated than that."


I take his hand and he lets me hold it. He still lets me hold his hand. Even when he tells me that I'm wrong. Even when he pretends he isn't listening. Even when he asks me to look away. Leave him alone. Let him figure it out.
"Do you remember what it felt like to be a baby?"

"No. Do you?"

"No. But I remember being six. I remember my seventh birthday. I remember that I was wearing green OP shorts and these Keds you could color."

"Sometimes I don't want to tell you everything, Mom."

"I know."

He used to. He used to tell me everything and then repeat the same everything over and over and over a hundred thousand times, but before that, he didn't speak. It took him many years before he spoke, so in a way I'm used to listening hard to his silence.

His thoughts have always been loud enough to hear from across the room.
I don't need him to tell me everything anymore. I want him to have secrets. I want him to share, but only if he wants to. I don't need him to be my baby, just my son.

And yet. There are moments, like when he holds my hand, that feel like time travel. It doesn't matter that they don't last. That they won't, can't...

I cannot cling to him when he has already let go. All I can do is let him guide me toward our exit, help him buckle his helmet and follow him home.


Isaida | 11:02 AM

Wow.....that's all i can say.

Kerianne | 11:14 AM

Reading a...blog isn't the word...reading an essay such as this makes something resonate within me, and I believe that something is my enchantment with all of malehood.

When I picture my future children I picture boys, strong and loud boys and also soft and quiet boys.

There is something so entrancing to me about the duality present in every male that each one tries hard to deny, the part of a male that needs to push away and be alone and the part that keeps them running home.

I love boys, so much.

Alt-Mama | 11:25 AM

Beautiful. Truly.

I enjoyed the links to the back-story, too, before Archer spoke. Hadn't read those before. Also beautiful.

Dranrab | 11:29 AM

He is such a neat child. So philosophic! Looking back at the older posts that were linked to this one is amazing to see how he has transformed. Great parenting!


agirlandaboy | 11:39 AM

I love me some Archer. And I love me some you+Archer. I can't believe he's almost SEVEN.

Amber | 11:40 AM

Archer is my hero. I am so inspired by him. And you. <3

Erica | 11:43 AM

lovely! he sounds so much like my oldest son. he just turned six and knows everything. he hates when i try to help him with anything. it is sad sometimes, but you're right, we can't hold on forever. all we can do is follow their lead. thank you for your insight. now i know i'm not alone. xx

Avalon | 11:45 AM

Just beautiful.

marlene | 11:54 AM

i don;t know what else to say but beautiful post.

Katrina Mills | 11:58 AM

You just made me tear up thinking about my boy growing up. Beautiful insight & i will need to read this again in a few years. Thanks

Arden | 11:58 AM

I hope I have a son like Archer someday. He has a beautiful soul.

Anonymous | 12:11 PM

Damn you. Tears. Streaming. R is four and a half. And starting...ever so slightly down this path. This independent path. And I hate it even though I know I shouldn't, even though it makes me proud.

They just take up your whole soul sometimes, you know?

Anonymous | 12:42 PM

good. stuff.

when you write about archer it makes me so happy. your voice becomes more familiar again. as a longtime reader, these are my favorite posts and im sure always will be.

thank you.

glenda | 1:15 PM

Beautiful. A mother / son bond = priceless

Rebby Lives | 1:23 PM

Beautiful post about your boy. My son is 2 and he is still my baby. I know I need to let go and let him be and do and discover on his own, but I still kind of hold on. I am learning, slowly, to give him space. Thanks for these insights on a 6 year old. Archer is so insightful and philisophical. I love it. You are all very lucky to have each other.

Anonymous | 1:59 PM

Lovely post about a lovely boy. Your son is already such an independent thinker. I bet he really will "build real cities."

oh, jenny mae | 2:15 PM

you're so fucking lucky. but you knew that.

Aimee | 2:27 PM

All of a sudden I'm sad that my baby will be 7...in 7 years! Such a beautiful and bittersweet post!

Janel | 2:47 PM

As a mom, you love all of your kids, but there's something special about your first love.

patty | 2:54 PM

I didn't expect to get so choked up at my desk this afternoon. Thanks... my daughter is nearly 7, just another month. So many things resonate. I love both my children, but first is first and she has her own special wonder. The heartbreak of this age, fly free, but stay with me, but go, but come back and hug me. Ditto to your post.

robin | 3:03 PM

That's so hard. To not cling. To let go. To follow from a safe distance behind, allowing our babies to grow up, venture out on their own, but still being there. To hold a hand, or listen, or buckle a helmet... sigh.

Red Stethoscope | 3:21 PM

This was beautiful.

Annie | 4:39 PM

You have a gift. And it happens to be one that makes me cry at my desk while I should be working on something so unimportant.

Beautiful words about such a beautiful boy. I know that I'll blink and my 9 month old boy will be as big as yours.

Michelle | 5:01 PM

I don't often (ever) comment. But I just burst into tears. My son is almost six, and letting become his own person....it's hard on a mama. So beautiful, thank you.

"I don't need him to be my baby, just my son."

Yes, oh yes.

Anonymous | 5:27 PM

Tears in my eyes from this beautiful post. My little guy is about to turn six and starting to have these moments but then telling me how he "can't live" if we don't "stay connected". The constant ebb and flow of needing and independence is so beautiful and so painful. Thanks for expressing it so well and for making me feel less alone.

Sarah | 6:16 PM

I love it when you write about Archer. I love it when you write about all of your kids, but especially Archer. Maybe because I have a son myself. Either way, makes me wanna cry. Every. Single. Time.

sara. no h. | 6:38 PM

tear. stained. cheeks.

Jade Aus | 6:45 PM

I too love Archer posts, they're my favourite. Thank you for sharing your special boy with the world.

Tirzah | 6:52 PM

Im sure there will never really be an exit... he'll leave, but then he'll always come back :)

Anonymous | 7:28 PM

Archer is wise beyond his years...so introspective and such a philosopher. All of your children have a magical quality. I love it! Great post. It's hard to let go sometimes. I have so many of the same conflicted feelings at times with my 4 year old. Happy to watch him grow and have some more time to myself and glad to have him help out at home, but I mourn the loss of his tiny dependence on me at times.

nicolette {momnivores dilemma} | 8:03 PM


This post removed tears that have been brewing all day. And for that, I thank you.

In reference to your older posts, I'm still "at the station" with my oldest son, Moose. He's a newly minted 4.5 year old, and has autism.

I still struggle to "toss out the map, and focus on the child", because there's always that nagging hope he will catch up. Speak in sentences. Pretend play.

Seeing Archer come full circle gives me hope.

Thank you.

Allison the Meep | 8:17 PM

This is beautiful. It reminds me so much of my son, and how time has wings.

Sarah | 9:02 PM

I'm a new reader and I just wanted to say that this is such a beautiful piece of writing that I needed to come out of lurkdom to let you know. Now I've gotta go back and read the story of before Archer spoke. :)

Connie T. | 11:49 PM

My son is 14 and to this day he always says 7 was the best age and the best year of his life. We always say "Remeber when you were 7, the best year of your life?" He loved 7.

Bea, OT | 11:55 PM

Wow! This is amazing writing! So beautiful! I think my son will be a lot like him, for at 13 months, he wants to be independent! I'm a rather new reader so I didn't know the back story.

My son will probably be a late speaker, mostly because he suffered a stroke. Many are able to catch up eventually, but I have my fears. I really identified with your older posts about Archer. I know I will cry when my son begins to speak!

You really have a way of making us fall in love with you and your family!

Anonymous | 3:27 AM

Oh my heart sank reading this especially the last part, my son just turned 7 and I have been sensing the same letting go feeling, a distance, silence....acting like a big boy rather then my little boy. It greatly saddens me, its crept up on me.

Anonymous | 3:28 AM

Oh my heart sank reading this especially the last part, my son just turned 7 and I have been sensing the same letting go feeling, a distance, silence....acting like a big boy rather then my little boy. It greatly saddens me, its crept up on me.

dgm | 9:20 AM

I'm glad you understand him and don't force your way in. Seven was a big transition year for my son (now 9). Sometimes it was annoying as he searched out his independence, when he would push push push the boundaries, but I did the exact same thing. At night he still wanted to snuggle and have me read Terry Pratchett books and tell me his "troubles,"so it was all good.

sierra | 11:35 AM

Beautiful, crying at the circ desk :)

hayley | 12:02 PM

well damn, here come the tears. you are one beautiful mama.

Becca from BettyBecca.com | 12:48 PM

I found out this week that I'm carrying a boy, my first child. Thanks so much for this! I just fell in love with him a little more!

(I love you+your family+your writing.)

No Mommy Brain | 3:17 PM

oh...sounds so much like me and my Liam. beautifully said. : )

R | 10:00 PM

Awww...this made me hug & kiss my 1 1/2 year old son a few more times today.

Hayley | 4:36 AM

Your words are utterly moving and your photos are always captivating.

Pretzel Thief | 7:23 AM

I hope you're happy because you just KILLED ME DEAD with that gorgeous, moving prose.

I mean...DAAAAAMN, woman! Tears. Throat lumps. Such achingly beautiful writing, so touching and raw.

Like others, love when you write about Archer.

Rachael | 9:19 AM

You are such an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing your family with us. Archer is so cool. My son just turned 6 and still loves hugging and holding hands but I can see this just around the corner.

Anonymous | 10:58 AM

oh my. That post is a keeper. To read over and over as needed, as I watch my now 4.5 year-old son grow up, and, in some ways slip away.

Crystal T. | 11:06 AM

This is so beautiful. And so very much what I'm going through with Jack. He's almost 6 and very much caught between still being a mama's boy and being completely fed up with me. It's great and sad all at the same time.

Katie | 4:32 PM

Archer is a lovely soul and you do a remarkable job acknowledging that and gently guiding it. Thanks for a beautiful read.

Betsey | 6:00 PM

Beautiful post!

Shannan | 7:12 PM

As a mom to a three year old with a speech delay, thank you. This gives me hope and makes me less nervous for preschool in the fall.

findingmagnolia | 11:03 PM

As I was reading, I kept scrolling up to look at the second photo again. It is a gift to Archer that you understand him in a way that doesn't need to know his secrets. I love this post.

Mama Smith | 7:24 AM

This touched me deeply. I always adore your descriptions of Archer and the pictures of his amazing infrastructure constructions. I was a kid a little like this (probably without the piercing wisdom) and I see glimpses in my own son when he quietly builds towers out of blocks in the corner... although he is still very small.

It's so difficult as a mother to offer space. You do it so gracefully.

Marcia G. | 9:14 AM

Beautifully written.

The Flynnigans | 10:59 AM

that's really lovely what you wrote. xoxo

Anonymous | 12:05 PM


Unknown | 12:21 PM

Wonderful. The hand holding part, where you feel like you are in another time and place, I so get that. I have moments where I look at my daughter and feel all Slaughter House Five. Like I have been here before and I have been in the future and it is all happening all at once. Surreal.

Shelley | 12:40 PM

I loved this entry. It really resonated with me as a momma of a 7-yr. boy who is also wise beyond his years, private but has moments of unexpected affection and vulnerability. Also, this is somewhat unrelated but made me think of you: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanpatrickduffy/2267218911/in/pool-684345@N25/lightbox/

threewildthings | 2:11 PM

You summed up mothering a young boy straddling independence and dependence so perfectly.

I'm painfully aware that the days of "hand-holding" my 6 1/2 year old son are numbered. I fear the imagined rejection of him pulling his hand away, so I rarely offer it up anymore. Instead, I wait for him to grab mine first and luckily he still does. For now.

Like Archer, my firstborn son is an old soul. A wise, boy-man juxtaposed with training wheels, a study in contrasts.

Sigh. This really resonated with me.

JMom | 6:51 PM

My big boy is now 22 and I love him as fiercely as ever. I can remember taking his hand, he was a big hand holder as a wee guy. I still get hugs now and then and I enjoy his company at least once a week even though he studies and works and has his social life. I count myself blessed to have had the privilege to have such a beautiful soul in my life.

Angela | 8:44 AM

I've got two boys, one 5 and one 7. They were both speech delayed and did not develop typically, but they are incredible, unique, intelligent boys and I wouldn't have it any other way. What I want to say is, I feel you.

Very Bloggy Beth | 11:56 AM

This is absolutely lovely. My son is about to turn 4, and I'm 5 months pregnant with his little brother. Sometimes I worry that I'll be so consumed with the new little one, the last few years of my first being "little" will slip by me. This is a great reminder to not let that happen. And such a beautiful portrait of your wonderful son.

Annie | 2:47 PM

Stunning. There are so many articles and blog posts and books, etc about parenting and mothering and so often they just scratch the surface. This was so real and heartbreakingly beautiful. Almost too much to bear.

- mama of an (almost but not yet) 4 year old boy

Anonymous | 4:30 AM

You have a beautiful son. I have read your blog for many years now, and I'm wondering if you have had Archer asassessed recently as to whether he might be on the Autism spectrum. This is not a criticism. He reminds me in so very many ways of my brother, who was also speech delayed. So intelligent, kind, worldly - but different. In his own world. He was found to be high functioning but on the autism spectrum. His high functioning meant that e wasn't diagnosed until 9 years old, but the diagnosis did not pigeon hole him - but gave him insight in his early teen years as to why he himself felt 'different' to others at times. He was a very happy kid and has blossomed into a happy adult with fulfilling work as an engineer.

Just something to think about, anyway. I work in the field of child development but am by no means an expert on the matter, and this is of course just speculation offered respectfully.

Laura | 1:22 PM

This is incredibly beautiful.

Anonymous | 7:01 PM

That was one of the most touching things I have ever read. You are a wonderful mother and he is your wonderful son!

Lindy | 12:35 PM

You just made me tear up. I think you captured perfectly the experience of being the mom, of wanting your child to grow up and be independent and live his own life. Of being so proud and happy and amused. But still cherishing those small moments--the hand holding, the rare snuggle--when you get to remember that tiny child who needed you for everything. Who was practically a piece of you. Thanks.

The Slick Mom | 8:42 PM

This is why I read your blog. You inspire me to be more "there". To really be there. Life is fleeting. These moments go so fast. Your blog reminds me to slow down and notice. For that I thank you. It doesn't always work. I blink and it's gone. But I try. I really try.

Heather | 9:36 PM

Our first babies have gotten so old...

The ones who started it all...

Alison | 10:14 AM

Beautiful post. My son is now 12 but I remember this stage so clearly.

Alexia | 4:26 AM

Oof, what a special person. What an old soul. Wise, sensitive, introspective. How lucky you are to have a son like that and how lucky he is to have a mom like you.

Leslie | 10:57 AM

I found you through Five Star Friday. I'm weeping. My son just turned 14, and he's an Aspie. This weekend, he's in DC with his eighth grade class. It's a big undertaking for him.

This: I cannot cling to him when he has already let go.
So true. This was beautiful. Thank you.