The One Hundred-and-Twelfth Chart

January 3, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

About a month ago Five looked at me, and out of the blue she said, “I’m not going to call you Mommy anymore.  From now on I’m going to call you Mom.”

Wasn’t this sort of transition supposed to happen gradually, where the kids sort of outgrew calling me mommy?  Since when do kids make a declaration of maturity?  It’s like changing socks.  Today I’m going to wear the Dora socks instead of the regular ones.  From now on I’m going to call you Mom instead of Mommy.

When I couple this with the passing of time—specifically, toward Seven’s next birthday this summer and the fact that she will turn eight—I really have a hard time these days wrapping my head around the fact that my kids are growing up.  I mean that in a literal sense.  I’m really just having trouble understanding that we’re getting closer to this day.

I suppose the fact that I’m going to turn 35 in less than a month just complicates things.  I see my children growing up, just coming to the point where they will really start developing their interests and slowly start stepping into their personalities.  And then I think of myself and my own personal goals, where I was ten years ago and how far I’ve come—or not—in these last ten years.  Does this mean some those goals will continue to remain unfulfilled in the coming ten years?  Will I have what it takes to complete them?

By extension, if I’m at this particular stage of my life, how do I set a good example for my girls?  I made a conscientious decision not to work outside of the home so I could focus on raising my kids and put my family first at this time.  Yes, I’ve made small forays into the publishing world by freelancing as an editor.  I’ve written articles on a semi-regular basis for a variety of publications.  I’m slowly meeting people and have thoroughly enjoyed the last two-and-a-half years as a freelancer.  I think I’ve had more fun in this phase of my career than ever before.  But if I have to be honest with myself, it’s not a full-blown career.  I’m a freelance writer and editor with incredibly flexible hours.

What kind of example does that translate into?  When the kids look at me, do they see someone who ekes out minutes and hours of her day when no one is looking (so to speak) so she can maintain some sort of continuity in her craft with the hope that one day she can dedicate most of her free time to it?  Do they see someone who takes every small success in her writing as a major stride forward?  Or do they just see a mom, a wife, someone who concerns herself with getting the laundry done on time and making sure the house gets cleaned and the lawn mowed?  Someone who makes sure we have enough juice boxes in the house and who can act as a short order cook when need be?

I try to do it all, be it all, as our twenty-first century media outlets tell us we can, and, of course, it doesn’t always pan out.  But occasionally I will have a day when I complete several different tasks in several different roles, and on those days I feel like actually can do it all and be it all.  Just not all in the same sixty seconds of any given hour.

Of course, the kids may have gotten old enough to decide to stop calling me mommy.  Contrary to typical five-year-old behavior of saying something and then forgetting about it, Five actually has called me mom in some instances.  But neither of them is old enough yet to have a conversation with me about the example I set every day, what that means to them, and how it will inform—and maybe even influence—their own lives.

That kind of declaration, I know, will come a few years down the road.  I have no idea what either of them will say when it does.  It’s hard to predict these things, of course, because like almost every other parent out there I spend most of my time looking at today, this hour, and making decisions that will help shape them in the short run.  When you’re negotiating the right way to brush teeth or keeping a child’s temper in check while still teaching said child to articulate what makes her mad, it’s hard to remember anything about examples.  You’re just trying not to get toothpaste on the floor and not making the windows rattle with your own yelling.

At the end of the day or the week, though, I spend some time reflecting on a few of these incidents from the week, and inevitably I fret a little bit about some of the choices I’ve made in my reactions or the consequences I’ve meted out to the girls.  Did I do the right thing?  Will they grow up feeling like I’m too harsh?  Did I go too easy on them at any time?  Will they think they can steamroll me into being a softie?

Any of these sound familiar?

Like most of you, though, I go back to the same thing over and over: I’m just doing the best that I can.  And I guess that’s all I can do when it comes to the summer.  Fortunately I will have almost five months to get used to the idea of turning 35 before Seven goes from being a little kid to a young girl.

Maybe by then my brain will catch up to reality.  A new year brings new beginnings and new phases of life.  Here’s to 2014 and what it will bring our family.

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