almost eight

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My first born.

My first son.

My introduction to the wonderful world of boys.

He doesn’t make a lot of blog appearances because he’s older and I want to be sensitive to that. His stories are becoming his to share. I asked him if I could talk about him today, he said, “sure”.

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I grew up with a sister. This little bundle of boy was new and strange for me. I remember holding him and thinking, “he’s a baby..I can do baby boy. At least he is not eight.” I don’t know why I landed on “8″, but I did. Baby boys, toddler boys, little boys and even teenage boys did not scare me. Eight year old boys, however, were a different world. I couldn’t think of a single eight year old boy I had ever known. That was the age I stopped being friends with boys when I was younger. That was the age boys got ‘yucky’ and I had no interest in them for several more years.

So every birthday, I keep thinking “at least he’s not eight”.
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His toddler years were rough. I am sure part had to do with my lack of experience as a mom, but a lot had to do with his personality. Strong willed. Independent. Confident. Determined. I would cry often wondering if I was a terrible mom. I felt like all I did was correct him and discipline. I remember emailing a close friend telling her I was struggling with knowing what to do with him. I needed to break his will, but feared breaking his spirit. I wondered if he’d ever like me and if I’d ever get to do anything with him that didn’t involve a battle of the wills. It felt like those days would never end.
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And yet, those days did end. I am not even sure when it happened, but it was many years ago. He’s still so young…I know. But he is so old too.

He is a thinker. He doesn’t make rash decisions. He’s methodical and confident.
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He’s been saving his money nearly all his life. Every now and then he’ll spend just a bit, but he usually just saves it. Not for any one thing, just to save it. Usually once a week I’ll find him counting it and reorganizing it. It is just something he does. He has had to upgrade to bigger money jars numerous times.

About a week ago, I found him dividing his money into 2 piles. He had emptied his jar completely and was slowly and precisely creating two large piles. I didn’t ask questions, just went on doing my thing. A while later he came to me with two bags full of coins and bills. He labeled the bags “Africa” and “China”. He told me he wanted to send all his money to those countries, but wasn’t sure exactly how he wanted those countries to spend it. His best friend is from Africa. His youngest sibling is in China.

I smiled. We talked about all the options I knew existed.
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The next day we drove to school and I began talking about how I was proud of him, but wanted him to understand that it is okay to have money. He could give some and keep some…he didn’t have to give it ALL away. He had been saving for so long. Working so hard. I wanted him to know he could do whatever he wanted. From the backseat he said, “Mommy, I don’t NEED anything. There are lots of kids that DON’T HAVE anything.”

I focused on driving. Speechless. How do I respond to that? How do I argue with that?

I told him he was right and I would support him in whatever he wanted to do with his money.

When I picked him up from school he had a smile as big as Texas. “I know what I want to do with the Africa money!” he said. He told me about his good friend K and how her mom was getting ready to go back to Africa to bring home K’s big brothers (they are adopting). He said K’s mom had met some boys that lived on the streets and had no families or possessions. She was going to go back and give them a place to take a clean bath, eat a fresh meal and provide them each with a new outfit and shoes. His sentences were fast and excited. He asked how many outfits I thought he could buy with his Africa money. His joy could not be contained.
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In a few short weeks, he will turn the dreaded age of “8″. Only, it isn’t so bad now that I am close to it. Sure it is still an awkward age in many ways. He still pushes the limits with me and our similar personalities often leave us at odds with each other. Sometimes he hits with a light saber too hard and doesn’t share the Legos. He’s not always quick to obey and he is still learning what it means to respect authority. He’s just a typical kid. But, he is a typical kid with an empty money jar and a full heart…who teaches me often more than I teach him.

Being a parent is exhausting. It is hard. I question every day if I am messing my kids up. But every now and then I get a glimpse into the people they are becoming. He’ll be 8 soon. He still has that strong will and strong spirit. And I get to have a front row seat to watch him grow into a man….my heart is full.

And it is looking like I’m not the only girl in this house that thinks he is pretty great…

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  • Jenny L. - I think all your kids are completely adorable, but the oldest has always been my favorite. And, I can’t help but think, when he is older the girls are really going to like him. You have done a truly good job with him.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh, you have me in tears! i just love my 8 year old boy and I love your 8 year old boy’s heart so very much!

  • Jessica Hekman - I read your blog all the time but have never commented. You constantly bless my socks off… Your mothering, crafting, photography, adopting… I think if we lived in the same town we’d just have to be friends. I always get teary eyed reading your blog. Thanks for your fun balance of fun stuff and heart stuff, it’s perfect. Thanks for being such a bright spot on my blog reader every night ;-)

  • Holly - Oh this made me cry! Thank you for sharing and reminding of us of God’s heart for this world!

  • Jamie - Oh what a sweet sweet heart your boys has! I can only hope that in a couple years when my boy is almost 8 he has as sweet a heart as your boy. I think it must be first born strong willed boys…mine is so similar in manner…more then a few times I have doubted myself, my abilities and my mothering…then he does something brave, selfless, sweet, loving…and I say to myself “nice job momma.”
    Nice job momma!

  • Elizabeth Jung - SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE
    You makes me cry.
    Love you all~

  • amber P - what an amazing young man you have! parenting is sooo hard – the hardest job in the world. you are definitely doing something right! :)

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - your kids are amazing. That’s wonderful how selfless he’s becoming. I can’t even fathom my little guys being 8 any time soon. In a couple weeks my oldest will be 5 and my little one is 3.

  • Jenni - I was so busy yesterday that I saved reading this as my prize for getting everything done. Then I was so tired when everything was done I decided to save it to read over coffee today. Um… so worth it!:) Hands down the best way to start the day!!:)

  • Kelly - Yea Eight! I don’t even know him and I am so proud of him! What an amazing lesson. This will have me thinking. I’m glad he said “sure” to you talking about him today because it is a blessing and challenge and encouragement to so many of us I believe. It sounds like you’re doing great, mama! After reading this post and getting up to pour my 20 month sons third bowl of cereal I told God, “I want to raise kids like that.” and I felt like I got the answer, “you are”. We are too tough on ourselves as mamas so much of the time and we need to keep praying and keep trusting that with His help we are raising wonderful God-fearing young men and women. Kelly

  • Nicole - lovely post. pretty much sums up every day of my life for the past five and a half years!

  • melyssa - thank you for talking about the “not perfect” aspects of mamahood… i have 2 boys which is totally crazy & new for me too. it’s nice too hear that i’m not the only one struggling with it:) also a money jar… why did i not think of that? so simple & yet i have been struggling to find a piggy bank that i can live w/ in the boys rooms not even thinking of the concept of a jar!! it’s the little things:)… but that was an ah-ha moment for me!!

  • Candy Foster - Thanks for bringing tears to my eyes and hope to my heart. I have a daughter who is very much like me (which causes us to clash more than my son and I do). She is also strong-willed, and very independent. I have felt the same way that you wrote about . . . . like it is a constant fight some days. I’ve also struggled with how to discipline her without breaking her strong spirit that I admire. But most of all I just love her like crazy and want to be the best Mommy for her! You’re post hit home :)

  • Katie - I know so many people say “I needed to hear this today,” but man, I really needed to hear this today. During a week when my husband is gone on business and I’m home parenting my two boys, I really needed to hear this. This is exactly how I feel about my oldest son…sometimes I wonder if he’ll ever like me, ever be excited to see me. I hope he will someday, and if not, thats ok too. I’m loving him as hard as I possibly can and thats all that matters right now. I wonder how my 6 month old will be different…or the same. I can’t even imagine 8. But every year does get better, so there’s hope for us yet. Thanks for writing honestly.

  • charla - Love this post, my oldest is 71/2 sometimes we don’t See eye to eye,I think it makes the break throughs even more exciting!!! I love your heart for your family! Love his heart too!

  • Nicki - I just love this post. I am my mother’s first child and she often tells me how hard it was raising me since I was her first. I was the tester, the outspoken one, the only girl. Now I am 20 and in college. She just called me yesterday to tell me how proud she is of me. She is great, and you are too. I love the pictures of Firecracker with the oldest. Too cute.

  • Honey Bee Mama - oh ashley, darn you!! you didn’t tell me in the first couple of sentences of this blog what it was about – i thought we were just reminiscing about our oldest babies when they were young and how we don’t know what to do with our oldest boys. and now i’m SOBBING. my five year old has been blowing me away lately with his little giving heart, and has used all of his allowance and christmas money recently to spend on others. he and your little man (or big man) are reminding ME that it’s better to give than to receive, and that in this new year as we reorganize our finances and buckle down on saving and spending right, that giving MUST be incorporated. it truly is better to give than receive. amen!

  • rachael - Hi Ashley,
    This was such a wonderful post – my first born is so similar in personality, I got the biggest shock of my life becoming a parent with him! I didn’t know what to do with boys any age…but now I have 2 and couldn’t imagine having girls! :)
    What a beautiful story of your sons desire to give his money away, it is one of the sweetest things to witness in life, your own child, showing you a beautiful, generous heart. If this is what he is doing at almost 8, what an amazing young man he will grow up to be!

  • Cordell Clibon - I simply want to tell you that I am very new to blogs and certainly savored this blog. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely come with great posts. Bless you for sharing your blog site.

  • Jessica P - Great post! What an amazing guy you’ve got there! And thanks for your reflections on motherhood. It’s comforting to know that even a Super Mom sometimes questions herself. Your kiddos are so lucky to have you.

  • giozi - Congratulations. Ohhh they growing so fast.
    My little boy this year is going to star the school snif snif.
    Your boy is growing handsome. Love the photoso where they are together, your princess is so cute.
    My birthday’s brother was yesterday :)

  • Katie - This post brought a tear to my eye. So wonderfully written. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jenna - Oh, Ashley, thanks for sharing this. I’m so touched by your son’s generous heart. He sounds so much like my firstborn {he’s 5} and I often wonder “will there ever be a day when we don’t butt heads all day long? That I don’t have to constantly discipline and correct?” Thanks for the glimmer of hope. :)

  • Jessica R - Oh Ashley, how wonderful is that boy. My first (a girl) is only a few months old, but I would love for her to become the caring, giving person that your boy is. How did you do it? Can you please do a post on specific things you did/said/read to them to encourage generosity of spirit? I would love some guidance from you as I start this journey!

  • brandie - I am sitting here bawling now!! What you said about his toddler years really struck me…I could have written that about my 3 year old son. My first born. My strong willed, independent, confident boy. I know these years will pass by, but the questions about wheather I am doing my job right will stay with me. To hear how your little boy is turning into such a caring and giving little man, my heart is touched – thank you for sharing his story!

  • Heldine - Awww… what an awesome post. Sounds like a great mom to me. :) And such cute pictures.

  • Charlotte Glaze - You have such a wonderful way of telling your stories in your posts. I’m not even a mom yet, but the way you talk about raising your children is so moving. I swear I was crying as I read this post.
    Just to tell you – keep on sharing. I love reading your posts.

  • Nenita - Oh My Goodness. Everything is amazing! I wish I could have them all

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