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Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011: The Tentative Steps Version

2010 was a pretty good year.

On Son's part, there was a lot of tooth loss--mostly of the natural causes variety--and much learning to read.  He matured enough to tell me, one night as I praised him for helping out his sister after he'd inadvertently upset her, "yeah, I've been trying to do that more, figure out how to make it better when I accidentally mess up." And his exponential vocabulary increase (thanks, reading!) was matched by a real growth in both wit and timing.  At 6 1/2, he became fully capable of a slight eye roll and a withering tone, as he (correctly, if none too sympathetically) informed his little sister, "You don't have to answer that. It was just a rhetorical question."

For Daughter's portion, her grace and creativity have blossomed.  She can occupy herself for hours with art projects.  She walks on tiptoe to the bathroom to brush her teeth, her arms slowly fluttering up and down, and informs me, "this is how ballerinas walk everywhere."  She is beginning to get the idea of spelling and of counting past 20.  She, too, is a master of the dry retort.  "Mama, look, I wrote you a note," she said not long ago, handing me a tiny piece of paper covered with scribbles and curlicues. "Oh, thank you, sweetie!" I exclaimed.  "What does it say?"  She gave me her own version of the withering glance (perhaps learned from her big brother) and replied, "I don't know. I can't read cursive."

They have both become better helpers around the house.

Quite suddenly, they are a pleasure to take out to restaurants.

They eat mushrooms.

Just at the bitter end (New Year's Eve), they suddenly became old enough and self-sufficient enough that I overheard one of them--while bickering over some issue that I did not have to go referee--trot out for the very first time perhaps the most hallowed sentence of sibling-dom, "I don't have to: you're not the boss of me!"

In so many ways, they are children instead of babies or toddlers or even preschoolers (though she, technically, is still a preschooler). 

And so, with a start, I am finding myself reevaluating myself too. I no longer have to help anyone clean up after themselves post-potty.  I don't have to dress anyone.  I don't always have to supervise or referee.  I have time; they have some independence; and so I find myself emerging from the cocoon of mother-martyrdom and towards some other kind of grown up existence. 

This is not to cast aspersions on the years of being physically connected to children.  I would not trade those years, even the really really hard parts of them, for anything.  But it is to marvel in the fact that now, they no longer need to cling to me...and to ponder the what next?

It's not as though everything is changing in one fell swoop.  Mine is still the lap they seek out, the hand they reach for, the goodnight kiss they request.  But I feel like I have more air to breathe, more time in which to breathe it, and the space to recover those parts of me that were lost in bleary-eyed night feedings, the endless redirections away from danger, the diapers, and the exhaustion of small, incessant voices asking Why? 

And so my goal for 2011 is to find those parts of me that I have lost along the way.  To reclaim my body as not only maternal but also womanly and to feel at home in that body once again.  To spend more time on my emotional life and on my marriage.  To pursue my academic goals in a more sustained and conscious way, rather than haphazardly and in snatched moments that feel stolen from time I "ought" to be spending with the children.  To model for my children what it means to be focused and driven, and still empathetic and deeply involved with one's family.  To love them enough to let them spend a little time making their own mistakes, and to pick them up afterwards, brush them off, and take them out for ice cream.

To figure out, in short, how to be a mother to children who--almost without my noticing--have suddenly reached a point where they do not need me every minute of the day.

And to remind myself of that it is all right to be a woman who defines herself in ways that encompass, but are not completely bounded by, her children.


Fawn said...

This reminds me of a time when you wrote a post pondering about a hypothetical child #3. I am still pondering that question for myself. I loved reading this post and thinking I could be there in a couple of years. If there is a #3, it will, well set me back in a way. I know I'd consider it a worthwhile sacrifice down the road... but oh, how the demands can chafe!

Ann Imig said...

This is beautiful, and oh how I relate.

Except to the child getting lost in art project for hours at a time.


Kate Coveny Hood said...

I just caught up on a couple of months of reading here (thank you for not posting daily by the way). I thought I'd just read everyone's last post and comment with good wishes for the new year, but of course I can't help but look back to see what I missed.

I relate to so much of this - this is the year to start figuring out who I'm going to be next. Some of the old roles are phasing out and some are so long gone that I need to accept that and move on. It's only now that I finally appreciate that "needing more hours in the day" complaint!

So back to my original intention: Much love to you and your family in 2011! I look forward to reading all about it.

Suzanne said...

thank you for writing this (specifically the second half). I am feeling this way too lately, as my children are 4 and 6 and becoming more independent. And then my 6-year-old says "but I'd rather stay home with you all day".

Jaina said...

So beautifully written. I hope I will remember this when it is my time to have children and when I get to this point in our lives. Thank you for such a wonderful perspective, I truly have missed reading your thoughts.

I hope 2011 is wonderful for you and your family :)

MommyTime said...

Fawn, Kate, and Ann, it is exciting and also weirdly disconcerting to be facing this kind of freedom, isn't it? I hope you all revel in it, though, my friends.

Suzanne, those are the exact ages of my children, so we seem to be in precisely the same place. And, the funny thing is, my older one is clingier than the younger one too -- perhaps because he had a few years of having me all to himself. I wish you much luck with this transition.

Jaina, so nice to have you here again! I hope you are having a lovely start to the new year.


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