Replaced by a Boy named N-I-C-O

I am spending my last week in Oregon visiting some of my favorite spots with Liam and Kellen. Today, we spent the morning at Orchard Park, one of the places we discovered during our first week in Hillsboro.

The park is divided into three areas. There is a series of trails meandering through a forest, a frolf course, and a small playground. We usually exhaust the playground equipment before playing a few holes of frolf. We eat a picnic lunch and end the outing wandering the trails looking for items to drop into the creek below the bridge.

We followed our usual routine today, starting off on the playground. Liam quickly made friends with another boy, “N-I-C-O,” proudly demonstrating the ability to spell his name. Liam and Nico began to play superheroes with Kellen happily tagging along behind them. I sat on a bench, observing them, contemplating how much had changed over the last three months.

The park had transformed. One our first visit, we marvelled at the feeling of being surrounded by green, so lush and deep it was as if no other color existed- until we discovered wild blackberries. Purple became the color of fascination. Our fingers were stained with juice from plucking and savoring the ripe berries.

Today, there were no berries and much of the green had given way to the more brown and orange tones of autumn. While I noticed the idiosyncracies of the landscape, I couldn’t help but focus on the changes in my children.

On our first visit to Orchard Park, I played with my sons. I chased them on the grass, climbed on rocks with them, and hunted for sticks that could be fashioned into swords. I encouraged them to play with other children, going so far as to introduce them. “This is Liam and Kellen. May they play with you?” The boys hid behind my legs, quietly protesting until I, not the other children, resumed out play.

This morning, no such introductions were needed. As soon as Liam noticed there was another boy on the playground, he confidently ran over to ask him to play. Kellen beamed as he held up two fingers to indicate his age and provided his name before anyone had asked. Within minutes, Liam was rummaging through my backpack to retrieve a snack he could share with his new friend.

I had been longing for this moment for months. I allowed a small piece of my obsessive personality to relax as I witnessed my boys’ capacity to master simple yet important societal rituals. But underneath the ease, I felt a tinge of sadness, a bit of jealousy. My own days on the playground are numbered. How does an aging mom compete for her sons’ attention when there are playmates with energy and imagination to match their own?

Like so many other aspects of motherhood, the moment was bittersweet- joy as I watched my sons step into their independence, mixed with the realization that their childhood is rushing past me with dizzying speed. If only I could slow down this growing up process, to linger in their wonder for just a little longer. Don’t grow up too fast, my babies. Mama isn’t ready to let you go.

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