I had two distinct yet parallel experiences yesterday with my children. The first involved my oldest.
He’s 10 going on 40, and in fifth grade. Next year he goes to middle school. He doesn’t seem old enough to be going to middle school. I just dropped him off at Kindergarten yesterday. Yes, I know every mom says that in fifth grade. Probably every dad, too.
So, in spite if yesterday’s snow day, the guidance counselor called and asked if we still wanted to come for our scheduled middle school registration. I just wanted to get it over with.
As we walked into the school, my son’s shoulders squared. His feet walked with purpose. He was excited. He knew what classes he wanted. He knew where he was going, unlike his mom who still gets lost at times in this huge school that is only a fraction of the size of the one he’ll attend next year.
Walking behind him, following his lead, I was keenly aware that with each passing day I am becoming less and less the dictator of his life and more and more a guest he allows into his world, not unlike the parents who are welcome guests in mine.
I’m both proud and heartbroken.
Later that night, after the two oldest were tucked into their beds (yes, he still wants me to tuck him in, thank God), I had my second experience. It was the little one. The one who has always been the cuddler of the three. The one whose affection is nearly impossible to reject. The one who breaks through my frigidity every time.
She got out of the tub. I toweled her off and carried her to my bed, like I’ve done since the day she was born in that very room five years ago. I brushed her wet hair and braided it, dressed her in her PJs, and tucked her in next to me while I scanned through Facebook and Pinterest, until I could hear her soft snores. Out cold, totally peaceful, her arms stretched over her head not unlike they had been when she was an infant, if I had dared to watch her sleep.
You see, I didn’t dare. I’ve never been one of those co-sleeping parents, despite my commitment to no-drugs birth, cloth diapers, and a home birth in a water trough in my bedroom. My kids slept in their cribs since birth. I shut the door and let them sleep, stir, cry, play quietly in the morning. I attended to their needs only as needed, and I didn’t dare go in and watch them sleep, for fear of waking them.
My alone time was too precious. My sleep, also, was too precious. My hour of showering and relaxing in the early morning was too precious.
With my oldest and my youngest I suffered what I now recognize as postpartum depression. I know, because I did not have it with my second. But with or without the PPD, bonding with my children was a struggle. I may never understand it. I did the best I could, and I have no regrets about my alone time, my sleep, my precious shower every morning. I needed those things just to stay sane, and sanity is the most important thing any mother should guard. Everything else comes second – breast feeding, idealism, marriage, work, housekeeping, friends.
But as I looked at my baby sleeping in my bed last night, I was incredibly grateful that I’m not missing it. That by the time I drop her off at kindergarten next year, I’ll know that school like the back of my hand, and I’ll be present there even more than I have been. And at the middle school, too. And high school, hopefully.
Blink and you miss it, seasoned parents told me. It’s so true. I cannot change the past, but I can enjoy the present.