I have a
vivid memory of holding my daughter when she was almost two – she seemed so big
then – rocking her to sleep and then holding her longer as her breathing
deepened and her little neck gave way to release the full weight of her downy
head against my arm. Holding her longer because I knew the days and bedtimes of
holding her like this were numbered.
another memory she’s four, grinning and running to me across a sunny summer
park, as fast as foolish four-year-old legs can carry her. I shout and laugh,
waiting on my knees with my arms open, knowing this very moment is one we won’t
were times when I was fully and always a mother, when to be with her was to give
attention, tend, put up with her. You never forget you are a parent to a child
that young. And because it takes all your energy and attention then, you think
it will always be like this, that being a mother is always about putting
someone else first, making sure they’re fed, rested, distracted or asleep
before you look after yourself.
what’s also true about being a mother is how quickly each phase passes and,
when it does, how completely it’s gone. It’s a tremendous and difficult
adjustment to go from knowing every single breathing detail of a little
person’s life, from being the font of all comfort and the repository of all
secrets, to being forbidden from knowing their email password.
is huge, a word that can only be used to describe someone who is 4-foot-10 and
90 lbs when remembering the easy weight of her perched on my hip, the lifting
and carrying, the complete way I enveloped her in a hug. Her body is morphing
into something I recognize as the mass of an adult and that’s strange because
the adults in my life are my peers, not my children.
personality is growing to match. No more the giddy, happily dependent and
malleable little cherub I was free to lavishly adore. Now it’s: Could you
please not always pay me attention, could you stand a little further off, could
you not kiss me in public, could you give me more than 5 minutes to go to the
store by myself, could you not be quite so interested in my life?
shopping with her at Value Village and realizing after 15 minutes of combing
the men’s casual wear that I haven’t got a clue where she is. It’s also
witnessing her mature concern for my grandmother, nearly 100, who’s been
burdened with a talkative and restless new roommate in her close-quartered
nursing home room.
growth and development of children mark change and the passage of time the way
no other relationship does. As I sit across a lunch table with my relaxed and
animated mother the day after her 75th birthday, I wonder if it’s
still the same for her, if the on-going changes and maturities of her children
are still a kind of inconceivable difference from the year before, and the year
a constant negotiation of loss, of a two-year-old I’ll never hold again, of a
four-year-old who’ll never run this way again, and also of the person I was
then, rocking in the bedtime darkness or crouching in the summer sun. But it’s
also a constant gain, if you can keep up. It’s the constant arrival in your
life of someone new and interesting, who’s also as familiar as yourself.
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