On the way home, I caught sight of a falling item through the bare branches lining the highway. It appeared to be hurtling through the sky. Ready to crash land at any moment. I continued to drive. The item continued to fall with the same speed and ferocity while never reaching a target. I was mesmerized. I drove. It fell. I watched. It fell. The smoke trailing behind the object serving as the only indication of motion. A picture of perpetual movement with no visible progress. I know that feeling.
I am not the kind of mother who spends all day quietly crafting in the evergreen scented warmth of my kitchen, oven slightly ajar to release heat and the smells of baking. I do not cry when my children leave to begin a new school year or lose a tooth. I am a believer in progress. I am thankful for each new phase. Stepping stones signaling passage from dependence to independence. I celebrate forward motion as I watch them create a life, separate from me and my expectations of who they are. I watch their light bulb moments with curiosity and eagerness. Some days, it seems as if it is moving so quickly. Some days, perpetual movement with no visible progress. We become stuck in the day to day minutia.
I have been in varying stages of parenting young children since I first stepped into the role in 2006. Every two years, another infant. Every two years, a rearranging of the family structure. A re-learning of infancy. A re-tooling of our resources, abilities and boundaries with ourselves and each other. Every two years, my well defined parenting taste buds mature and I must further develop my palate.
When pregnant with our last, I knew we were pushing the reaches of our abilities and resources. I knew we were done. Thus began a new vision of parenting. A model where another baby would not come home in a striped hat of pink and blue. Things are changing. The baby on my chest is the last. The chalk throwing 2 year old looks older. The 4 year old seems tall, lanky with no sign of his baby cheeks. The 6 year old, a shorter and wittier version of young adult me. Time has finally started moving. Swiftly.
I used to feel unable to say that the fully dependent times are trying. It is difficult to admit that, on some days, you feel like you are hurtling through space, in a dark void filled with only screams, dirty diapers and the incessant need of you.
We are a society that is so focused on the past and future that we neglect our present. In either judgmental hindsight or thoughtful foreshadowing, we ignore the now in its hideous imperfection. The hindsighters who watch you navigate moments of DEFCON 1 parenting and, with lustful implication, say, “Oh enjoy it, it goes by so fast.” In hindsight, do we all view childhood as a shooting star? Beautiful, rare and blindingly brief.
Perhaps, in some ways, this is true. We pine for what is gone. We long for what is just outside our future reach. In the present though, we are frozen in lack of noticeable progress. We look forward to the abilities, competencies and skills they have yet to grow into. We pine for full cheeks, soft bellies and toothless grins.
I don’t like to drink from the, “This is as good as it gets.” fountain. I cherish the soft days of baby. I laugh through the wild rumpus of toddlerhood, I marvel at the knowledge of my newly school aged children’s vivid understanding of the complicated world around them. I watch as they embrace every moment as it is happening; maybe children are the only ones who are truly able to.
Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. Wendy, Michael and John, even after the adventure of Neverland, wanted to go home to their mother. I think we all carry a bit of this as we fly through life. Half child/Half grown-up emotion hoping our children slow down, believe in fairies and, no matter where they are in the adventure, always fly home.
Life is happening while we court the great reckoning of longing versus progress. And, while we’re here in this daily fall of non-visible momentum, the smoke is signaling that we’re traveling. Swiftly.