Thirteen is long gangly limbs and a new-ish posture that somehow transcends the word slouch, it’s a full-bodied curve. I googled an old Snoopy cartoon where he’s pretending to be a vulture, perched like the letter C on the top of his doghouse. That’s YOU, his brother laughs. Thirteen curls even more in response, his entire being can become a grimace.

Thirteen is a short temper and dogged refusal to give a single inch, lighthearted conversations come to a boil in an instant and suddenly I’m ten minutes into an argument about something I don’t even care about and the topic keeps changing and what the hell, guy? STOP THAT. Thirteen is all strong opinions and withering judgments, an airy wave of the hand and a beetling of the brow.

Thirteen is also a grab-bag of sweet moments: a startling “Love you!” after a silent car ride, an unprompted texted apology, a door held for me. Thirteen has the capacity for pitch-perfect humor, when he can lay down the obnoxious sarcasm in favor of the far more subtle and hilarious observations that he delivers at exactly the right moment. Thirteen slings his long arms around me out of the blue. Moomz, he says, his pet name for me. Rolz, I say back, holding tight.

Thirteen is smart and headstrong and always, always listening. I think, I hope, that thirteen is absorbing the world like a sponge via that careless-seeming slouch, that everything is coalescing inside, a storm of who-am-I, and the shape taking form is one of confidence and maybe, just maybe, the willingness to see other perspectives.

Ten, who is going to be eleven in just a few days, is teetering precariously on the edge of small-boyhood. He is a glorious smattering of freckles and a wide grin that feels like mid-summer sunshine. He is full enthusiasm and absolute refusal in one labyrinthine package, a seesaw of uncomplicated joy and mysterious black clouds.

Ten cannot be budged from his snap judgements: the thing he’s never eaten before is awful, the place I suggested is lame. Ten is both enamored with the world around him — fascinated with cities and animals and faraway lands he wants to experience one day — and too caught up with his own preconceptions to allow the world to surprise him. He sees big, he sees through a pinhole; it’s like everything else for him: big and tiny, back and forth.

Ten is hugely affectionate and loves his family unreservedly. He is funny and silly and both enormously scatterbrained and deeply observant. He lights up like a Christmas tree over our shared rituals: inside jokes, secret gestures. His face has the soft planes of childhood while his ever-growing bones seem to knit before my eyes into the stance of the man he will become.

Ten is also smart and headstrong, and yet so different from thirteen. I hope the same for him, that he comes to believe in who he is without forming a carapace against the hurts and risks that come with being human. Real talk, I also want ten to be little forever and ever and ever. I will always be your littlest one, even if I’m bigger, he says with surprising wisdom, curling his fingers around mine.


28 Responses to “Thirteen and ten”

  1. Jess on January 27th, 2019 12:32 pm

    With two boys the exact same age, this post was so incredibly perfect. You are so freaking gifted.

  2. Amy on January 27th, 2019 12:41 pm

    Omg, look at them! I started reading right around the time you posted a picture of your first positive pregnancy test. Now you have two stunning young men and I have a 4 year old. Where does the time go?

  3. Emily on January 27th, 2019 12:57 pm

    Just beautiful. My 14 year old is taller than I am now and it’s just so… strange. He’s all elbows and knees and legs like a Great Dane puppy. He wants little to do with me at the moment and it just breaks my heart. (Don’t get me started on the 11-year old girl…)

  4. Kelley on January 27th, 2019 3:19 pm

    They look so grown up! Especially ten, he looks like twenty-four, like he should have his college diploma on the wall! They are amazing, both of them, and YOU, you are an amazing Mom and an amazing writer, says one of the people who have been following you since Diaryland days, back in the olden days.

  5. Diane on January 27th, 2019 5:25 pm

    I was just thinking about how long the journey has been from Diaryland to today. Thank you so much for bringing us along with you. I very seldom comment but this picture of the boys really brought it home.

  6. Stacy on January 27th, 2019 9:01 pm

    Wow. 13 is YOUR FACE. Both are handsome and described here beautifully and articulately.

  7. Emily on January 28th, 2019 1:34 am

    That picture gave me a rush of holyshitisthathowlongit’sbeen … and gratitude for you and your words over all these years. The way you write so truthfully through all your everything is a constant inspiration.

  8. Mary Clare on January 28th, 2019 7:54 am

    My daughters have a similar age gap as your kids and my oldest is 10 going on 11. I see my future in your posts. While its tough watching them grow up, there’s a delight in each age and stage. A bittersweet and beautiful description of your boys. You express their complexities so eloquently.

  9. Suzanne on January 28th, 2019 8:33 am

    Love this so much. Your boys sound amazing.

    (Also, ten sounds strikingly similar to five.)

  10. Emma on January 28th, 2019 8:35 am

    Words are your beyotch, mama. Amazing. You capture so many of my own observations of my similar aged boys that I could never put into words. They will cherish reading these words when they are older and have kids of their own. So special!

  11. Sara on January 28th, 2019 12:51 pm

    And just like that, eyes filled with tears at the final line. Motherhood has me constantly on the verge…of tears or temper or always needing a nap. Your writing captures life beautifully.

  12. Emily on January 28th, 2019 1:14 pm

    Oh, the last line made me cry. It’s such a cliche, but so very true: the days are long but the years are short. Oof.

  13. LD's Mom on January 28th, 2019 2:41 pm

    Thanks for making me cry at work. So sweet, and as always you have a gift for capturing the human spirit with words. Love, love, love this.

  14. Lena on January 29th, 2019 9:15 am

    You. Are an incredible writer. And mother. Geesh. Those faces. I have no words. <3

  15. Missy on January 30th, 2019 9:55 am

    What a gift you have. This is beautiful and I cried almost from the start. My own boys are 15 and yet so much of this rings true. The see-saw back and forth from boy to man. Thank you for translating my emotions into these words. Keep writing – it is so appreciated.

  16. Jo on January 30th, 2019 7:55 pm

    Echoing others’ comments as a long time reader (since the days before pregnancy tests), and now Mum to my own toddler. You have such an amazing way with words and it’s a privilege to have them shared with us. Such handsome boys, and that last line…

  17. Adrien on February 1st, 2019 7:42 am

    Oh my gosh, Linda! When did this HAPPEN. So handsome, so grown! You’re doing a great job raising these young men.

  18. Robin Danely on February 2nd, 2019 1:48 pm

    Thank you for charting these waters.

  19. Deb on February 2nd, 2019 8:13 pm

    Thirteen about killed me. A friend told me that things improve a lot at about fourteen and a half, and if she’s wrong, imma stab her.

  20. Christine on February 3rd, 2019 1:35 pm

    Oh, so much love here. Just LOVE.

  21. Em on February 4th, 2019 10:37 am

    Love this post.

  22. Shawna on February 4th, 2019 1:43 pm

    What a lovely post! It’s so fun to be reminded that we ended up pregnant at the same time for both our kids! My daughter just turned 13 and is managing to remain an absolute delight and one of my favourite people to spend time with. I’m now the only woman in the immediate family who remains taller than her and she will undoubtedly pass me this year. My 10 year old son is definitely still the baby of the family, and I have a feeling he’ll be the difficult teenage stereotype if either of them will – already I’m catching him sneaking screen time when he knows he’s not supposed to, and eating too much junk.

  23. kendra on February 6th, 2019 7:47 am

    “His face has the soft planes of childhood while his ever-growing bones seem to knit before my eyes into the stance of the man he will become.”

    I read the above like 14 times. Perfection.

  24. Michelle on February 6th, 2019 3:24 pm

    This entire post gave me goosebumps. I was from the Diaryland-age as well, and oh my gosh how things have changed. And you, dear, continue to get better with age. Bravo!

  25. Karen on February 8th, 2019 6:33 pm

    This post killed me. Thirteen is supposed to be a squishy baby and yet he’s practically a grown-ass man in that photo. And don’t even get me started on Ten. My own is eight and I am willing time to stop. I look at him and think, “I can’t do this. I need to make it slow down, stop, reverse, even.”

  26. Andrea on February 8th, 2019 8:00 pm

    Beautifully written, perceptive Mama. Lucky kids!

  27. Andrea on February 8th, 2019 8:00 pm

    Beautifully written, perceptive Mama. Lucky kids!

  28. Wanda on February 10th, 2019 1:59 pm

    I remember when they were babies! They are so grown up and handsome.

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