Day 324/365 A Warm Pocket

It has been happening bit by bit…this change… 

My soon to be twelve-year-old daughter has one tentative foot into her adolescence, and one foot still carefully positioned in the land of childhood. Her dirty converse high tops straddle them both, not entirely belonging in either…existing in the in-between.

The metaphor I so readily conjure is that of a butterfly…

The green and gold chrysalis that has housed her – protected her – has now become translucent, allowing a first look inside at the transformed being that is to come. This beautiful creature must soon emerge, becoming more and more constrained within the space that has kept her safe and warm.

She is nearly ready to stretch her wings.

Part of me dreads the impending disconnection between us; my inevitable decline in importance in her world. At the same time I await with great anticipation the young woman she will become.

Who is this butterfly meant to be? 

Will she stop and rest for a moment before taking flight? Will she stay close?

butterfly
Photo by Monica Rodgers

Recently I had the opportunity to chaperone a field trip with her fifth grade class. She told me it would be nice if I came, but it would also be fine if I didn’t.

(One foot in, one foot out).

We didn’t have to leave for a couple of hours to where we’d meet her class, so we ventured to the beach to let the beast (that is, our labrador retriever) romp.  I smiled as I watched her run with the same look of wild abandon as the dog, freed from the constraints of his leash. She flew..head back, wild hair…entirely unaffected by the presence of other beach goers. Thinking of my own insanely insecure adolescent years, I wondered if she’ll stay this way.

I hoped so.

Once worn out, she sidled up beside me. It was a beautiful, but crisp, late spring morning; I had my hands tucked into my jacket pockets for warmth. As we walked she slipped her hand…still so small…into my pocket, intertwining her fingers with mine.

We walked that way for a while, the two of us sharing a warm pocket.

Soon it was time for the field trip. It was the first one I had been on in a couple of years, and I marveled at them all – this group of children – all so different, yet so connected. They are at that awkward age where most of the girls tower over the boys. They moved like a giggly, beautifully awkward amoeba.

As we meandered along, I kept my distance like a good mom who-was-allowed-to-come-but-it’s-okay-if-she-didn’t. I watched as my daughter flitted along with her friends, free and happy. At one point I was surprised to find her walking along beside me.

(I presume, just by habit) she slid her hand into mine. Squeezing it, I looked down at her and smiled. Suddenly self-conscious, she offered a quick grin and let go, running ahead to join her friends.

As she should.

I will always have a warm pocket…when she needs one.

Day 296/365 Can You Still Hold Me?

“Pick me up,” said my soon to be nine year old daughter. She looked up at me and smiled.

It struck me that she hadn’t asked me to do that in a long time, and…that I didn’t know if I could. Something about the way she looked at me told me that she wondered the same –

Mom, can you still hold me?

Time is funny that way….you don’t notice it stealing from you until every so often, you do. 

I mean…I could, technically, pick her up. If, say, she were injured or in danger, I have no doubt that my mom-strength would kick in. I’d be able to lift her straight over my head if I needed to protect her.

Even in a non-emergency I guess I could…if I remembered to lift with my knees and to brace myself, but the truth is…

My baby…isn’t a baby anymore. 

I wondered when the last time was that I had easily and mindlessly hoisted her onto my hip while I multitasked.

The thief called Time is so stealth –  it lulls us to sleep with our busyness while it ever-so-gently eases our babies from our hips…untangles their fingers from our hair…and presents us with new versions of our most treasured beings.

We love them just as much, but we can’t help but search their faces for the babies they’ve replaced.

Mom, can you still hold me?

I was struck by the desire to drink her in…to notice everything about her…

To hold her…

Here, now…like this.

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Day 115/365 Doing Our Best

In my line of work as a childcare/preschool Administrator, I work with many parents of young children. As a parent of two myself, I can completely relate to their struggles.

This was not always the case.

Years ago, before I had my own children (which is of course when one possesses the most kick-ass parenting skills) I was a caregiver for a group of toddlers at a local preschool. I can remember having a good laugh one day when my coworkers and I looked in a child’s bag for spare clothing and found nothing but a tutu.  His parents were good natured, and later they had a good laugh along with us, but I know there was a certain amount of judgement on my part.  I’m sure I was thinking something like…

“A tutu?  Really?  That’s all this poor kid has for spare clothes?”  

Because, after all, what is so hard about sending your child to school every day with everything you’re asked to bring?  How hard could this parenting (or this parenting plus career) thing be?

To those parents, and to all parents that I, in my ignorant bliss, judged, I sincerely apologize.

Here’s a quick list of things I thought I’d never do…

Forget my child’s lunchbox at home.

Check.

Send my child with her lunch in a huge cooler because I ordered the pretty flowered lunchboxes too late.

Check.

Arrive at school with no spare clothing for my child (not even a tutu).

Check.

Carry my child into daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Carry my child out of daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Send the wrong lunch with the wrong child, inadvertently smuggling a peanut butter grenade into a nut free zone.

Check.

Remember the store bought Christmas gifts for my children’s teachers, but misplace the gifts that were actually made for them by my daughters.

Check.

Find aforementioned handmade gifts in February and enthusiastically present them to my daughters to give to their teachers as Valentine’s Day gifts.

Check.

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So many times I have had parents apologize to me in some form or another for something they perceive as a parenting fail.

To them I say –

No parent I know is aiming to fail at parenting. We all love our children. They are our hearts and souls. So, repeat after me…

I am doing my best.

We are all doing our best.

I know, sometimes our best feels shitty. We feel like we have phoned it in, lost the plot, dropped the ball…

We don’t live up to our own expectations.

I have a couple of things to say about that –

First of all, if you care enough to feel like a failure, chances are your kids feel really loved.

Seriously.

Think about it. You obviously love them a whole heck of a lot to be putting so much pressure on yourself. Stop apologizing for being a human being, doing the very hard work of raising other tiny human beings.

Second, if you’re lucky you’ll get to do it all over again tomorrow.

Let’s face it, for many years parenting is kind of like Groundhog Day – you’ll have another opportunity to do things differently tomorrow…and the next day…and the next.

Every day you’ll do the best you can do that day. 

That’s all you can do.

That, and…

Be kind to yourself. It’s contagious.

 

Day 18/365 Night Magic

There are magic moments.

For me, one of those moments is watching my children fall asleep.  I don’t mean that to be funny, but believe me, I completely understand why you’d think I do.

There have been many nights, especially when they were very young, that the moment sleep overtook them felt more like a (very, very) hard won victory than any sort of magic.

I remember well a time when there existed only precious few waking hours each night in which I felt like an autonomous human being. Every moment they stayed awake past their bedtime felt like it was stolen from me.

And even now, there are nights I’m too tired. Too busy. Too…just too.

But,

Now that I am keenly aware that I’m on the precipice of a time when they’ll no longer ask me to lay beside them in their beds,

Now that I’ve had such a visceral reminder of life’s impermanence,

More often, I stay present to notice.

Sleepy eyes slowly losing focus; lids becoming heavier and heavier as their thick, beautiful lashes finally rest. Deep, peaceful breathing. 

It’s like watching them slip into another world.

Magic.

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Day 14/365 – Ruby

Today is Ruby’s birthday.  Last night when I was snuggling her into bed, I said,

“This is the last time I’ll see you as a seven year old. Do you think you will still want to snuggle me when you’re eight?”

“Yes,” she said, thoughtfully.  “I think I’ll snuggle you until I’m sixteen.  After that I’ll be busy driving around with my friends.”

Oh my, they grow up so fast, don’t they?

She crawled into bed with me in the middle of the night (which she never does anymore unless she’s not well).  So, for the start of her eighth year, we woke up together, cozy in my bed. Outside my bedroom window the sky was ablaze.  It was completely stunning.

sunrise

I have a friend who says she can see and hear angels. I believe her, actually, because she just…knows things. She has always said that Ruby is surrounded by angels wherever she goes. I believe that, too.  There’s just something about her that is magical…otherworldly.

One sleepy evening she said to me, “Mama, you make everything better.”  I thought my heart would burst.

It is actually her who makes everything better.

I am just so grateful to have been invited along for the ride.

(Even if before long she will be sneaking off with my keys.)

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