March 4, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
In this past week I’ve had three moments of parenting clarity.
Moments of parenting clarity, for those of you who haven’t had them yet (or haven’t had them in a REALLY long time,) are those moments when you get into a situation and all of a sudden the truth of the Big Picture becomes apparent. In the daily grind of packing lunches and driving Four and Two to school, to their dance class, to the grocery store, and everywhere else, in the agony of fighting with laundry and scrubbing at dirt spots, in the pursuit of my dreams of becoming a published author and trying every single day to keep my head down and ignore the rejections—in the midst of this adventure known as Life, those moments of parenting clarity cause that classic reaction known as a double-take. I literally blink once or twice and have to re-orient myself to the day, the time, even the year.
All three moments of parenting clarity, however, have led me to the same conclusion: my girls are growing up, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. Do I want to stop it? Yes and no. I loved their baby selves, the funny words they used to say in place of real words, the giggling, and the adorable clothes.
I did not, however, love the late night/early morning feedings, potty training (see the previous Chart,) and the temper tantrums (not that older kids don’t have tantrums, but by the time they’re older many of them stop conducting their tantrums while they’re lying on the floor.)
While I can forget all the, um, challenges of parenting, though, I miss those babies. And I’m thoroughly enjoying my girls as they’re growing up. So these three moments of parenting clarity bring with them many conflicting feelings—but then, when does parenting not bring conflicting feelings?
Moment of Parenting Clarity Number One
I went to the spoon drawer in the kitchen one day searching for a straw and saw that some of the dishes that I’d washed earlier had dried. Taking a few moments to put away the clean cutlery, I saw one of the baby spoons the girls used briefly when each of them was much younger.
I put the spoon in the drawer several months ago, and I had seen it several times in the course of putting away clean dishes but something about seeing it this week made me pause. And then it created a pang in me, that momentary internal jerk that told me my kids would never again need that spoon.
Where had the time gone? Had someone fast-forwarded through these last four years? If I sit still I can remember agonizing in the hospital just after Four was born about how much milk she was drinking. And today she’s tall enough to reach the higher light switches and go to that same spoon drawer herself and take out what’s needed. As cliché as it may sound, my baby had grown up.
Moment of Parenting Clarity Number Two
Dance class day comes smack dab in the middle of the week. While it makes Wednesdays long for us, this was the only day of the week when both kids’ classes were at the same time (although Four’s class is longer than Two’s.) For those sweet 30 minutes when both of them are in their classes, I breathe and remind myself to hang on to my sanity for a few more hours because bedtime is just that far away.
When Two comes out of her class, we have 15 minutes before Four is done. So Two and I have some time to chat and bond, change from tap shoes to street shoes, and start drinking her daily glass of afternoon milk. This week, as she drank, Two spotted a mother holding an infant. The baby must have been no more than a couple of months old, and Two’s face lit up in a huge smile as she said, “Aw, look at the baby! Cute, cute baby.”
The irony of that moment struck me. Here’s a child who has just barely grown out of her own babyhood, and she’s looking at children younger than herself and labeling them as “cute babies.” Her self-awareness regarding her age and that this little person is indeed smaller and younger than her made me realize that Two is, in fact, no longer a baby herself.
At that point I took a few moments to really look at the baby in the mother’s arms, and I remembered right away when Four and Two had that same expression of wonder on their faces. Babies, it seems, have that expression permanently imprinted on their faces (when they’re not crying, pooping, or sleeping, that is.) It’s a beautiful element of babyhood that quickly fades away when the babies get older and begin to figure out the world.
Four and Two have already figured out all they need to know about their world right now and that world is for a four-year-old and a two-year-old, not a baby. But I have to admit that I do miss those expressions on their faces.
Moment of Parenting Clarity Number Three
Friday in Four’s class is Show ‘n Tell day, and because this week schools across America were celebrating Dr. Seuss Four’s teacher challenged her students to bring in two items that rhyme. As we walked to the car the other day after school, Four and I began discussing the possibilities of two items that rhyme. Before I could get her completely strapped into her car seat, she’d decided she wanted to bring in a block and a hawk.
Her quick thinking blew me away, and I got excited as we talked about how “block” and “hawk” rhyme but are each comprised of very different letters. She and I have had many discussions about language like this, and I think those discussions have helped her in part to be such an excellent reader so early (she’s reading at about a first-grade level now.)
What provided me with the third moment of parenting clarity, however, was this: that same night Four had finished her dinner first, took her dishes to the kitchen, and drifted toward the play area in our family room when her father suggested she come back to the table and sit with us. Seeing the picture I’d printed from the Internet of the hawk, I suggested she take a few moments to put her picture away as well as a book her teacher had lent her to read.
As she put the picture away she began explaining to her dad about Show ‘n Tell and the teacher’s request for two rhyming items, and while she kept talking she went back to the play area and dug around in the Lego box for a block that would fit the bill. All at once I realized she’d looked for and put the block in her backpack without me reminding her once that she needed to do so, and my moment of clarity came in realizing that she was growing up and becoming more capable of executing her own responsibilities without any help from me. That pang from earlier in the week returned, and I turned to my husband.
“Well, she’s going to be five this summer,” we agreed. We talk often about birthdays (Four and Two’s birthdays are only two weeks apart,) but moments like these drive home for me what having a five-year-old will really mean. And this week with these three moments of parenting clarity on hand, I anticipate with pleasure and trepidation life in the coming year with a five-year-old and a three-year-old. I’m proud of who they are and who they’re becoming, but I also know one corner of my heart will always hold them fast as my babies.