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This Is Childhood: Ten

03/22/2013 09:58 am ET | Updated May 22, 2013

This is the final post in the series "This Is Childhood," which captures moments in our children's lives, from age 1 to 10.

I spent my teenage summers at a wonderful, rambling house on the Massachusetts shore with several families. There was always a tangle of children and we got in the habit of going for swims after dinner. One summer, there was phosphorescence. I have never forgotten those unexpected, bright swirls of light, otherworldly, as blinding as they were fleeting.

Ten is like that. Ten is phosphorescence. Ten blazes brightly and vanishes so quickly you wonder if your eyes are playing tricks on you.

Ten is a changeling. In her mahogany eyes I see the baby she was and the young woman she is fast becoming. In one moment she's still a little girl, clutching her teddy bears before bed and in another she is a near-teenager, dancing and singing along to Nicki Minaj. She oscillates between wanting to bolt for the horizon of young adulthood that she can see and wanting to shrink from it, nestling instead in early childhood with me.

Motherhood has offered me more surprises than I can count but the biggest one is how limned with loss it is, how striated with sorrow. I am blindsided, over and over again, by the breathless rush of time. For every single thing that will never come again, though, there is a dazzling surprise, a new skill, a new wonder, a new delight. All of parenting is a constant farewell and an endless allelulia wrapped together, but 10 feels like an especially momentous one.

Ten is evanescent, liminal, unquestionably the end of something and just as surely the beginning of something else. As my ten year old noted, in tears, the night before her 10th birthday, she will "never be single digits again, ever."

The only thing 10 wants more than her ears pierced is a dog. She still laughs uproariously as she flies down a sledding hill, but she also shrugs nonchalantly at the top of a black diamond slope before turning down it and executing perfect turns, her duct-tape-covered helmet a blur of color against the snow.

Ten wears tall Ugg boots I can fit into and impossibly long yoga pants that I mistake for my own when I am folding laundry. Ten organizes her crayons in rainbow order and I can see the alphabetized spice rack that lies ahead.

Ten swings masterfully across the monkey bars, dribbles a soccer ball all the way up the field and scores, plays good enough tennis that we can play actual games. Ten loves board games and Club Penguin, and the door of her closet is covered with posters of Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. When will these girls be replaced in her affection by boys, I wonder? I hope not too soon.

Ten is streaks of brilliance in the dark sea, whose provenance is unknown, which vanish as fast as they appear.

Ten sat on my lap this week, her toes brushing the floor on either side of my legs. I ran my fingers over a temporary tattoo of a shooting star on her arm, and thought: that is what 10 is. Ten is a shooting star. An explosion of light and kinesis that will never come again. Blink and you'll miss it.

Ten leaves heartfelt, tear-jerking notes for me on my pillow that profess her love, devotion, and thanks. Ten sometimes walks icily away from me at school drop off, refusing to turn around, angry about something.

Ten is sensitive and easily bruised, confused by the startling meanness that can flare in other adolescent girls, desperate to be liked. Ten is alternately fragile and fierce.

Ten is vehement attachment and lurching swipes at separation. When ten grows up she wants to be a veterinarian, a mother, and a writer. In the "about the author" section of a book she wrote at school she said that the author took five years to write the book, because she was also raising her children. Ten doesn't miss a single thing, and what I do matters a hundred times more than what I say.

Ten kneels in front of the "fairy stream" at a nearby park, breath drawn, and I swear that enchantment still brushes past her, like her heroine Hermione running by under the invisibility cloak. Ten caught my eye last Christmas when she said something about Santa, conveying in a single look that she knew he wasn't real but that she didn't want to ruin it for her younger brother.

Ten is the child who made me a mother, my pioneer, my trailblazer, walking hand-in-hand with me through all the firsts of her childhood and my motherhood. Ten is grace. Ten is my amazing Grace.

Anne Sexton said "I look for uncomplicated hymns, but love has none." Ten is a complicated hymn, a falling star, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment in time, an otherworldy flash of green gorgeousness in the dark ocean.

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