You’re 11 Today…


Just living is not enough.  One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. ~ Hans Christian Anderson
My favorite photo of you.

You are 11 today. And before long you’ll be 17 and then 24 and then older. And  although I know I shouldn’t, I vacillate between being in this moment  with you and wondering who you’ll be as you continue to grow. I can’t  help it; perhaps no parent can. To wonder how to be the best parent for you and knowing how  every choice we make impacts you; to worry or hope or, at times, stress  unnecessarily over your development.

That’s why as I write this I can’t help but imagine the grown, adult  you reading back over this blog, finding this and other posts and  remembering your perspective. And I find myself writing to that version  of you now.

Right now you are 11 but like no 11 year old I’ve ever known. You are  an old soul and I sometimes have to remind myself that you are still  young and that my expectations of comprehension or ability are not  always realistic. You often grasp so much and speak so well that I forget my philosophical waxing may make little sense from your current vantage point on life.


At 11, you are always walking at least 20 feet ahead of us, eating your hamburgers with nothing on them and devouring twice as much as a grown man eats in a day. You are barefoot on rocks and over hot cement and through brambles, because nothing feel worse than wearing shoes in the summer. You can’t stand your hair curly and ask me several times a month how one goes about straightening it. You frequently stand tall in front of me to see that you are now up to my shoulders, my chin, my lips, my nose. You love mythology, gaming and, of course, Lego. You’re teaching yourself how to yield a long-sword and nunchucks and you hate your picture taken.

On a rare occasion I can catch you off guard and you’ll hold my hand or walk with my arm around your shoulders; usually you’re much too old for such a thing. But when it storms badly you’ll lay beside me in bed, while Dad checks the awning outside, with your thumbs in your ears and your fingers over your eyes and you’ll let me keep you safe from the thunder that rattles the walls. And when I ask politely and remind you that even I am not too old to curl up with Grandma, you’ll let me cuddle up beside you for no reason at all, although there is a reason, my own reason: I just want to hold onto this moment with you before it’s grown and gone.

Right now, not when you grow up but today, you are a sculptor, a def poet, an engineer and an artist. Yes, you who is self-critical and a perfectionist. You rarely will admit it but you are creative none the less. I can’t wait to see how you develop these talents or which new ones you discover tomorrow or next year or decades from now. I can’t wait until you embrace the idea that you are whole and passionate and can be amazing and influential at any age. Instead, in your difficult moments, you loathe and fear and tear yourself down with your words. I scramble to hold your pieces together for you, to counteract the harsh effect your own words have by describing the things I see in you: hard-working, invested, determined, strong, independent, talented, creative, funny. 


Oh, you are funny. You practice this particular art daily, studying other comedians and their delivery, mimicking them: their expressions, their tones of voice. We find ourselves reminding you that most jokes lose  their humor after 18 repetitions and that some are only funny because  you would never dream of actually doing or saying such a thing off-stage  and in real life. I have Zack & Cody to thank for many benign  insults thrown our way. But I have you to thank for the laughter. (Just  yesterday you chirped up a man wasn’t “losing a daughter”, he was losing his wallet. I nearly fell out of my chair.)

Right now, at 11, you are boisterous, loud and always moving. When we  lay down to read you are putting your feet behind your head or flipping  and catching pillows over mine. And it’s always just when I think  you’re not listening to the story anymore that you ask what a word means  or why a character did that. You find the holes and unexplored parts of  the book or the movie impossible to ignore. When I want to finish a paragraph, you want to discuss plot twists and the author’s intentions and the very best I can say is that I have no idea why Rowling decided Voldemort should have seven horcruxes, instead of eight.

Right now, at 11, you are intelligent, inquisitive and a little fearful of it. You  read well beyond your years, but you hate reading books yourself. It  makes you anxious,  as though some teacher may still be lurking  behind the door ready to jump out and grade you. Numbers and words come easily to you unless you realize it’s “reading” or “math” and then your doubt  fumbles you or halts you completely. I’m ready for those things to  pass, for you to see no one is pushing or judging or insisting you  perform; I’m hoping you can come to embrace life and learning to the  extent we do. I know you’re not always there yet but I’m excited in the moments you are and for the time you always will be. That’ll be the day the world vibrates with anticipation  of what you’ll do with all the power you find within yourself. That’ll be the  day the universe unfurls at your feet and you finally understand what  “limitless possibilities” really means. Until that day arrives, I’ll happily read to you. It’s one of my very favorite things to do.

Right now, at 11, you are intense. You often surprise people with  your intensity and they don’t know how to respond or look at me waiting  for an exaggerated response of my own. But I know your intensity and  although there are many times it overwhelms me, I know it’s you needing validation in this moment for it to pass. I wish, at 11, you could see that too; that these things pass and that no single moment or emotion encompasses a  lifetime, sadly even when we want it to.

Right now, at just 11, you are critical of the world. You seek out  and find the injustice; you dwell on the imperfect. You insist on  perfection and don’t understand it doesn’t exist. You decide what people think of you, what parents mean with their words and what some old guy at the store really thought about your not being in school at 11:30 in the morning and insist that most people  are out to ruin things, especially things you love. I know these are  important traits: it’s necessary to see what can be better in order to  create change. But I struggle when it feels like pessimism or fear or comes out  as anger. I want you to feel excitement over making changes, not  condemnation over what needs changing. But those are my views and you  are adamant in your own. And for that (and many other traits) I admire you.

Right now, at 11, you can be too much for me. You have a fire inside  you fueled by anger, fear and insistence. I try to give you a new fuel  every day, things like love, acceptance and confidence. Many days I fail. I constantly remind myself that your values don’t need to be mine,  that my perceptions don’t need to be yours.

Birthday Present

Yesterday we had a conversation. And although you usually resist such  big, philosophical ideas of mine, this time you listened to what I have  found to be my truth. I wonder at 17 or 24 or older if you’ll remember  driving down a country road in a borrowed car speaking about growing  older and living our passions vs “getting a job”. You worry that work can’t be fun, that  growing up means doing things you hate for money. Perhaps that’s why you constantly challenge the necessity of currency.

I can’t blame you for feeling these things when 97% of the known population does the very thing you don’t want to do: grow up, put away their passions, get a job and complain about it until they retire. We want so badly to show you another way of life, which is perhaps one of the biggest motivators to our current one.

I knew when you came into  this world that you came with purpose. And every day I think I see glimpses of it within your strong will and refusal to back down. Your confidence – the very confidence that lacks when you look upon your own creations – shines when you look upon the things with which you know you disagree. I see an unstoppable force in you, yes, even at 11. I see a gentleness, too. And I sit here wondering what it all means now and what it will mean for the adult you.

You amaze me, Zeb. And as imperfect as I am, I’m honored to be your mother. Happy birthday, baby.

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Tags: birthday, Zeb,

35 Comments. Leave new

How beautiful–as always. I can always feel the love within your family. Happy Birthday to Zeb, to you (as mama), and to Justin. I’m sure you are enjoying the celebration of each other.

Stacy (Mama-Om)
August 14, 2010 11:08 am

I can’t say it any better than Suzie!

Happy Birthday, Zeb, and celebrations and blessings to the three of you!!



Zeb – While we only spent a few days with you, my boys still talk about you wistfully, reminding me that on our first drive along the lake on that hot summer night you said you loved it here. My boys loved your calm conversations, your ideas and your patience with them (even though they are younger, G said). I remember your spirit and intensity – so much like my boys…I could see a bit of them in 5 or 6 years in you (which is a good thing!!!!). I hope you had a wonderful birthday – surrounded by people who love you, doing what makes you happy. And from all of us, Happy Birthday to you, and Happy Birth Day to your mama!

Denise, Brice, G & A

rachel whetzel
August 14, 2010 11:30 am

Great thoughts! Happy Birthday, Zeb!!

So beautiful, Tara. Happy birthday, Zeb.

Happy Birthday to Zeb, may the year ahead be full of love, and wonder, magic and surprises, new experiences and fun times.

A beautiful tribute Tara, your love for your son, your passion and integrity shine through every word of this. How blessed and fortunate he was to be born to a mother who is so intuitive, so understanding, so free of her own ego that she can completely accept who he is for exactly who he is, without imposing her own expectations, dreams or desires upon him.

Having read your words to Zeb, and also Denise’s words on her blog regarding her marriage and feelings for Carsten, I feel very humbled to “know” such beautiful souls, people who can write so movingly and passionately, so authentically and openly. You are indeed a great inspiration – and I feel lucky to have found you and your words, as you’ve opened up a new path of mothering (and living) for me that feels so right, so natural and yet might have been one that I continued living unaware of, had it not been for your words.

Hope you all have a wonderful day celebrating Zeb’s birthday, reminscing over the years gone by and looking forward to the adventures to come in the years ahead. Much love x x

So beautiful Tara. You’ve brought me to tears.

Happy Birthday to your beautiful boy, and to you, Mama. Have fun celebrating your incredible Zeb. xo -Debbie


i found you through two frog home and love all i’ve read so far. :) we have a dream of traveling in an old school bus or rv someday in the near future. in the meantime, i’ll just live vicariously through your beautiful writings and photographs. :)

That was beautiful, Mama. Happy Birthday to your boy.

deb from p.s. bohemian
August 14, 2010 12:26 pm

Tara – Zeb, to me, sounds so much like my Eli – I find myself longing for the day (perhaps now almost here) when I get to meet him – I wonder what it will be like to be in the space of another so young and yet so old and full and intense and I find myself excited – for us as Mamas and for the boys as well – for if they are indeed similar in Spirit then my hope is they can ‘see’ it as well and find comfort in it – comfort and strength in being seen deep down.

Of course, they are just 11 and I am likely projected way too much depth into things *again* but that is my nature :P

Send birthday loves to all three of you today!

Tara-Oh how much we have have in common! My son Zeph (Zephram) is 17.Z is a beautiful,creative,kind,and super smart young man. He is also stubborn,firey,and waiting to turn that magic age 18 (and then he can do everything!) He too has curls that he fights with.He actually had his sister straighten them once.Having him as my boy has been a most wonderful experience.It also has been very trying at times. There are many things I wish I would have done differently.Home Schooling being number one. He doesn’t do things that don’t interest him so school has been challenging.
You are doing GREAT things mama,Have a Blessed day.
Billie Kay
p.s.If you are ever near Laramie,WY let me know.I’d love to meet you.

Tweets that mention You’re 11 Today… – TheOrganicSister --
August 14, 2010 12:26 pm

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tara Wagner and Judy Durbin, Netzi P. Netzi P said: RT @OrganicSister: On the blog…You’re 11 Today… #OMGIhavean11yearold […]

“I wish, at 11, you could see that too; that these things pass and that no single moment or emotion encompasses a lifetime, sadly even when we want it to.”

Love this. Life and emotions are so fluid, ever changing and sometimes we want so desperately to grab on with both hands. I just stumbled across your blog and love it. I have a 9 and a half year old son. It’s amazingly beautiful and challenging all at once. Hit me up if you are ever in Western Colorado!

Jeanie Butera
August 14, 2010 1:16 pm

That was beautiful…Happy Birthday Zeb!!

what a wonderful mama you are. how beautiful. i sit here with a 2 1/2 year old boy and another on the way. it is a pure joy watching him grow everyday. i catch myself just staring at him throughout the day. he amazes me. it is hard to think about the past or dream of the future…but ultimately i know that all we have is THIS moment…so I treasure NOW and practice living each day with complete gratitude. very happy to have found your wonderful blog.

Happy birthday, Zeb!
This was a great post! :)

Lovely! Happy Birthday Zeb!

Happy Birthday to Zeb! What a great reflection. What a special guy!

Happy Birthday to you Zeb! Congratulations to you Tara and Justin. You have a beautiful boy, a beautiful family, a beautiful life, and beautiful souls. Thank you for sharing and inspiring. I feel blessed to know you. Enjoy your day!

Lisa (@faeriemidwife)
August 15, 2010 2:50 am

That’s beautiful :) My boy will be 11 in January. They grow up so fast.

Happy Birthday Zeb!

Beautifully written! What a lucky guy to have such an understanding mama!

That’s so terrific. Jack will be 6 in November. His interests seem so much like Zeb’s. I wonder too what he’ll be like. Will he really become a video game designer like he says he will? I just read something the other day that supposedly your personality (at the basic level) is set by 1st grade. If that’s true I have a whole lot of goofy years to look forward too.

I hope Zeb had a wonderful birthday!

Happy birthday Zeb.


Freely Living Life
August 15, 2010 10:21 am

What a beautiful post!

Zeb is so very lucky to have such wonderful, supportive and understanding parents.

It must be so very exciting to know that Zeb will forever cherish these memories you are creating.


happiest day of birth Z! (i thought you were 13 for some reason)
happy birthing day Tara!

Aleisha @ Whole Family Project
August 15, 2010 5:09 pm

Oh Tara! I’m just bawling…bawling in Borders. It’s so beautiful.

Happy Birthday Zeb!

Happy Birthday to Zeb! This is fabulous! (It’s eerie how much of me I see in your description of Zeb. Best of luck to all of you with the unschooling.)

Happy Birth Day to Zeb and to you Tara! That was beautiful! You have an incredible way of expressing your love for your family. Peace, Angela

That’s beautiful, Tara. :) Happy birthday Zeb!!

Beautiful! I think you so eloquently captured the essences of most mothers heart in this post. Thanks for sharing this. Happy Birthday Zeb!

Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog
August 16, 2010 6:34 pm

11 is so hard… Happy birthday, Zeb. May 11 be easier than it was for me, and may you learn that life is as lovely as you allow it to be.

Happy 11th birthday Zeb!

That’s my favorite picture of him, too. Reading this…I wonder what my boy will be like at 11…I hope he’ll still cuddle with me!

Vicki JohnsonBarrett
November 9, 2010 10:58 pm

Tara, that was beautiful. We spoke the tiniest bit at the park last week about 11 (and 13, like my son, Ryon) being such “in between” times, and sometimes difficult. These words from your post really struck a chord with me, in relation to Ryon:

I know these are important traits: it’s necessary to see what can be better in order to create change. But I struggle when it feels like pessimism or fear or comes out as anger. I want you to feel excitement over making changes, not condemnation over what needs changing. But those are my views and you are adamant in your own.

I find myself swallowing the words I *almost* want to say, about how negative he sounds, etc., because I must remember that he is *he* and I am *I*, and he has every right to those responses to injustice or thoughtlessness or hatred or bigotry or rules or a bad economy . . . and I can’t help but wonder whether more would happen to change those things if we were able to hold on to more of our outrage as we get older rather than less.

Ranty, I know, but that’s just where I ended up, at least after wiping the tears from reading your words of love and wonder for Zeb’s 11th year. Thanks for that!

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