Malcolm Gladwell, in researching great minds and talents, said that it takes 10,000 hours, or 10 years, to master a craft. All those supposed instantly talented genius’ out there have one common denominator: they put in about a decade of hard, unrelenting work before achieving their renowned success.
My oldest child turned 10 in February. I’ve reached the 10,000 hour mark, theoretically. And I’ve been reflecting on the past decade of his life and mine, trying to grasp the absurdity of time and space, and our place within it.
Of course, I don’t think I could “master” motherhood like another craft or skill. If anything motherhood is mastering me, shaping and sculpting every cell of me into a woman of increased capacity and humility every day.
And after 10 years I do feel real change in myself—and also in my son. Anthroposophical scholars have written prolifically on the “9 year change,” an enormous shift in consciousness and awareness for the child which happens somewhere in the 9th and 10th year. Neuroscience has also identified a brain “upgrade” that happens for all of us around age 9 (among other ages in life). Whenever these upgrades happen, as they do periodically, we become more depressed and anxious, in a state of unease, and we want to go back to the comfort of our former selves—but find we are never able to return.
Thankfully, once we have integrated the neurological, emotional, social, and spiritual shifts, we move forward, stronger and more ready for what is coming next in life.
But while the upgrade, or developmental leap, is underway, it sucks. It is painful to come crashing down to earth, as the anthroposophists say we all do around age 10. I can’t tell you how many psychotherapy clients over the years remember having a pivotal, life changing event or experience that happens around ages 8-10. My son told me recently he keeps having dreams of falling off a cliff. It’s a perfect metaphor for what his psyche is trying to grasp as it comes to completion with childhood, and starts moving towards seeing and knowing about the world in ways his consciousness protected him from before. While nothing has changed much about his outer life, his inner world is undergoing major reconstruction.
Then there is me, 10 years deep into my life as a mother.
I did a local week long yoga workshop a couple of weeks after Lucian’s 10th birthday (it was amazing). Yoga is another practice, like motherhood, that has no summit. I’ve been studying yoga for 24 years, and I still have so much to learn.
What appeared for me to work with in this workshop wasn’t the physical yoga postures necessarily (though they are a doorway), but my ongoing integration of my son’s birth—the rite of passage into motherhood.
I’m not sure how to share this and have it make sense to anyone but my self. But as we practiced yoga and discussed it from every philosophical and physiological vantage point, and practiced some more, I became very aware that my body was still integrating the never before experienced earth shaking energy that moved through me as my son was born. I am still so reverent of that creative force, so humbled by it, so in awe of it. During his birth I felt no fear. I knew I had to step aside and let this energy do it’s work to get the baby down and out. But in the aftermath of such enormous contraction and expansion, all at once, I have been unconsciously tentative to claim that power as something that I not only know, but embody.
I do think its possible that after 10 years, I have settled in and spread myself out into this land of matrilineal understanding, and hopefully earning some wisdom here. I am halfway through raising him—this recognition alone stops me in my tracks, even as I write. This halfway point could easily be another false summit, as there have been many of those as a mother. But I do feel an exhale happening on a deep level, and I believe it is worth noticing.
Looking out from this small landing, a tiny but sufficient outcrop on the rock wall of motherhood, I am able to rest for a moment. I can look around, see where I’ve come, and peek out the corner of my eye up toward the next cruxy moves of tween years and adolescence. I can breathe, notice, absorb, and integrate in a way that having two children close together hasn’t afforded me—until now.
I now want to invite the energy of birth, still lingering in my body, as a creative force that I consciously use to resource and express myself, as I continue to care so intently for others. And as I witness my son in the midst of an expansion of consciousness, capacities, fears, and desires, I notice I feel steady, calm, and connected. It is amazingly wise timing between mother and child, once again, nature. It is enough.
Happy birthday, Lucian.