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What a weekend! One we certainly packed right full. We bid a very fond adieu to our French exchange, Lou. His three month stay with us flew by so fast! He arrived at the new year, days after a two-foot snowfall, and left just before the big thaw (this week!), hanging with us through that long stretch of winter that can challenge the best of us. I'm confident he got some great skiing in, a lot of art-making time by the fire, and maybe some understanding of what a big family is like, for better or worse! I will admit to being quite nervous before he arrived about welcoming another person into our home and family for such a stretch, but I needn't have been in this case - it was a wonderful, lucky, great match, and we are certain that we'll all meet again in the years to come. Visiting Maine in the summer, after all, is entirely different experience that one must have! We pretended a bit of that just before he left, with a lobster dinner.
Lou's departure made even more real the impending departure of our own son for his three month stay in France. Just a week from now, Calvin leaves for his exchange! Thankfully, there is a big long packing list that needs my attention, which is just the distraction I might need to keep this week full until we deliver him to the airport. But oh the 'tell him before he leaves' list in my head grows by the hour, so much longer than the actual packing list. Forget whether or not he has enough socks, does he know how to navigate the airport - in a language he's only a little familiar with? And yes, he needs the right colored pencils for school, but does he have the right words for when he's at a party, in another country, with new friends, to ensure he's making safe decisions?
Oh! It is sure to be a wild week ahead as we pack and talk and pack and talk, and I can hear him in my mind saying, as he does "I know, Mom. I know." And you know? I think he does, mostly. He's a great kid. He's mature. He's thoughtful. He's ready for this.
And then...because lobster dinners and French farewells aren't enough to keep a weekend fabulously full for all and definitely emotional for Mama....Ezra went and turned 14. Fourteen! We hosted a crew of his here too in the mix of it all. (Teen boys plus lobster dinner - thank goodness we can open ALL the windows today!) I do really love this age of thirteen and fourteen - I think they're turning out to be among my favorite years. It's just past the most awkward and challenging of years physically and maybe emotionally, but before they're off and on their own and wanting a bit less to do with us (ha!). Truly straddling two worlds, I think, and doing it at this point, quite happily. I watched as this pile of kids who have known each other for years went back and forth between childhood goofy to an impressive maturity in one conversation. And as they ran into the woods, sure to come back soaked as they always did after such adventures (and they did), I had to laugh. It could have been six years ago and they could have been running into the woods for a game of make believe. But instead they told me they were 'location scouting' for a movie they were making together.
That sweet boy of mine, my now fourteen year old Ezra, amazes me always. His confidence in who he is astounds me, and inspires me. Leaving his pack of homeschool buddies, Ezra will venture off to high school in the fall. Not to join his brother at his school, because of course Ezra forged his own path, found his own school - one that's just right for him. I'm excited to see him grow and learn in this new place and with new people. Fourteen!
Oh, my heart. With each year that these kids stretch further out and away, I feel my heart stretching too. To let go (of so much), to love and know these people as they are becoming, and to leave room for who they will still yet be. This is the work of parenting these years, I think. It's hard, and it's wonderful. Really, really hard. And really, really wonderful.