During my aunt’s visit from California two weeks ago, we had a last-minute photo shoot for some Mother’s Day pictures (it wasn’t last minute for my aunt who planned in advance to hire the fabulous Karenfor a photo session, but the addition of me and my crew was last-minute). I’m currently at the end of the another school session with the accompanying 50 papers and finals to grade, so I haven’t had many opportunities to write posts in the last two weeks. I have ideas piling up like crazy though! For now, some of the pictures and thoughts from our recent photo shoot:
After getting these pictures taken I came across two items on Facebook that made me think about why I want pictures and why I write blog posts. The first was this: A daughter grows from 0 to 12 — in 2 minutes and 45 seconds. The dad videotaped his daughter every week from birth to age 12 and then put a little snippet of footage from each week together into a fast-moving montage of her life. It was a cool project and also so poignant. As I watched it, I thought about my own fast-growing kids and also about a moment I had last month when I was watching Alaina walking away from me on the porch—suddenly I felt fast-forwarded and like I was watching her adult self walk away, like my future self was seeing her and looking back at the porch moment thinking, but she was JUST MY BABY!
So, along those lines, I also enjoyed reading a thoughtful blog post by Stephanie Soderblom about her son’s seventeenth birthday:
When ‘they’ kept saying, “it goes by too fast!”….what ‘they’ mean is that memories don’t fade. My childhood is foggy, a distant memory of playing outside and brief snapshot memories of friends or school. But raising our children – that memory doesn’t get foggy. I remember this almost-17 year-old man’s first week as clearly as I remember this past Christmas. I remember the clothes I dressed him in….I remember the chair I would sit in and rock him. I remember the smell of his silky hair, the feeling of him cuddled up in a little ball between my breasts as I rubbed his back. I remember rejoicing in the tiniest of accomplishments – learning to coo, smiling, rolling to his side – as well as the big ones.
I also remember the insecurity that came with being his mother…
from Left to cry….alone
I really connected to the mention of the children’s memories fading or becoming indistinct, but the parents memories feeling like “just yesterday.” This makes a lot of sense to me and feels true from my own childhood and now with my own kids—being a mother to small people is so sharp and so defining and so all-encompassing that it seems impossible that this phase of life will end. There is an element of initiation to it, of almost a spiritual journey, a defining, core life experience, that I wonder how it will feel to have only teenage children and then young adult children. Will I still identify closely with mothers of toddlers, or will I “move on” and just remember “what it was like” from afar. Since my oldest is only 8, I have a ways to go before I figure that out, but my experiences as a breastfeeding support group leader is that the memory of caring for a small nursling is as sharp and potent as ever (of course, right now it is, since I’ve still got a nursling of my own, but I’m talking about the time during which I was a leader and had no active nurslings).
And, speaking of memories and how childhood memories can be blurry or indistinct or amorphous, I was a little depressed by this observation in a current article in Parents magazine:
For years, I’ve been asking audiences of parents a deceptively simple question: “What was the sweetest moment of your childhood?” I wait so they can come up with a memory, and then I say, “Please raise your hand if your parents were present when that sweetest memory took place.” I have done this with thousands of people and the result never varies much: Around 20 percent say their parents were part of their sweetest memory and 80 percent say their parents weren’t. When audience members turn in their chairs to see the result, they laugh self-consciously. As parents, we hope that we’re laying a foundation of happy memories for our children. When we’re confronted with the fact that our own best memories of childhood took place away from our parents, we’re a bit confused. That’s a slap in the face to dedicated moms and dads. Or is it?…
Bummer! All of this time, energy, and constant life investment isn’t producing any sweetest memories for my kids, only for me?! :::sob::: My own dominant memories of my childhood are actually mostly about my sister. Watching my boys play and appreciating their tightly interwoven lives, I predict they will have the same experience in adulthood. I also have more specific, event-based memories of my dad than I do of my mom and I think that was because he was gone at work during the day—my mom was everpresent and thus it is harder to pick specific memories for her. I think that is one of the good things though—since she was always there, I could rest in that security of presence and affection, rather only focusing on “special occasions” or special days/moments. She was (is) my life’s constant.
(Side note: I’ve found that as my kids grow, I find more to enjoy in Parents magazine. It isn’t a helpful resource for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, infancy, or medical care, but many of the articles about older kids have nuggets of interest for me to glean.)
You’ll miss this?
These musings also reminded me of my post from last year: You’ll miss this. I think the intent of my post has been mispercieved by some readers as thinking I’m saying not to savor or appreciate time with my little kids or that I’m somehow thinking that I won’t “miss this”—I most definitely will miss many things, I already miss them with a sharp pang of nostalgia as I in the moment see them passing by, which raises a whole other issue because I want to make sure I’m parenting the child right in front of me, rather than the memory of their baby self or the vision of their future adulthood. I also stand by my personal assessment that it would hurt my feelings quite a lot to know my mom was spending tons of time thinking wistfully about me as a baby when I’m right here now! Why would I expect to spend the second half of my parenting journey any differently? The current people who my kids are and will hopefully continue to be are so rich and vibrant, that there isn’t much space for “missing this”—they’re right here and I like who they are right now. (I also note that perhaps not everyone picks up on the shaming undercurrent that I perceive—particularly online—in the “you’ll miss this” comment and how it is used by other mothers against each other and against themselves.)
What I know is that there has not been a single day of Alaina’s life that I haven’t savored and appreciated her. Almost every day I experience a moment in which I feel like my heart is breaking open at the sight of her and how she is growing and just how magical and she is. My boys are so very much integrated into my life—I can’t imagine life without them and so my pangs about them are a little less sharp. They also aren’t babies and so the changes they experience aren’t so obvious and striking, they’re more subtle. Lann is getting taller and taller and I can see into the not-too-distant future that he is going to be taller than me. He has grown two inches since last year. My husband was six feet tall by the end of middle school. Lann is going to be nine in September, so doesn’t that mean that I may only have three more years with him as a boy instead of an almost-man?! Ack! Zander continues to surprise me with how bold and confident he is. In my own family, the older sister (me) was the “leader” and the one who was more confident. In our family, while Lann does boss Zander around quite a bit, Zander is the “brave one”—the one who will go talk to people, or turn on the lights in the dark room, or ask questions, or step up and speak up. They are tightly connected and their senses of self are obviously entwined with each other. This is my brother. It is one the deepest and most profound bonds they will ever experience. I feel both lucky that they have this connection, that the genetic dice rolled so compatibly, and also mildly smug, because I think one of the reasons this relationship is possible is because we homeschool. If they were going to separate classrooms all day, I can’t imagine that they’d be quite as close—their “spheres” would be different and Zander would probably be treated like the pesky little brother and Lann would be the bossy big brother, instead of the rock-solid team of best friends that they are.