I was worn down by the minutia of mothering. The days were consumed with relentless chores that keep the machine of a home life humming: changing the kitty litter, filling the gas tank, sweeping the floors, folding the towels and vacuuming the same carpet over and over. No amount of effort seemed to brighten the dullness of endless routine.
Meals were adequate but not nutritious. The produce was wilting; the fruit bowl empty and finances lean. Time with my daughter was squeezed between rides and homework and play-dates. There were too few giggles and crafts and afternoons on the couch. My mother love seemed an anemic pink rather than a pulsing purplish red.
I dreamed of ease and rescue. I wanted someone to help clean my house, go to the dentist, get my daughter her poster board and pay the bills. I wished I had a father who could snake the kitchen pumps and a retired and well-to-do mother who lived close by and had endless time to spend with her granddaughter. I never planned on parenting alone.
It was like shoveling the snow in the tenth storm of a dreary season where there is no place to empty the shovel when the white snow stops looking breathtaking and promise iced-over windshields, delayed school openings and long rides to work. I was muscling through, managing and doing the minimum and feeling stretched and inadequate in my delivery and approach.
Then, like last week’s ripping at the base of the house threatening to tear the roof off or uproot a tree, it shifted and the heaviness evaporated. It wasn’t an insight that freed the mind, a cyclical release of hormones that elevated mood, a sweaty run or an unexpected windfall. It was my daughter, at the foot of the stairs asking, “Do you need anything?”
The words climbed up as I was getting dressed and I realized she was talking to me. She is ten and has never asked this. “You can have the other half of my bagel,” she said, “But I’ll make yours with peanut butter.”
It reminded me of the shock I felt when she was an infant crying in the middle of the night and I went to her exhausted and sleepy. The need to tend, to ease my baby’s discomfort came so naturally and often. It satiated a longing I had not known I had. How come no one warns of this rapture? I asked. Why aren’t there songs and poems about this primal devotion that seems to come from the core of the universe? Now my daughter is ten and is a fresh to the world person made anew each day in a form I have never experienced.
Wasn’t it a minute ago that she couldn’t reach the bowls she now pulls down for herself? Wasn’t she too young to get her hair brushed before school and her shoes on without instruction? Didn’t she accidentally drop a hand-held weight on my head at three and not realize it caused hurt?
This once infant is in the kitchen and considering my needs for a moment. Our dance steps have shifted and she sometimes leads. She plays song for me from her favorite band, dances moves she makes up and asks me to watch.
It is Kai who taught me how to knit, who had beginner wooden needles and three choices of yarn for me to choose from. It is my daughter who said, “See, you are doing it” when I completed my first row. I could see the teacher-to-be as she guided and instructed. I am not only a provider, guider, feeder and driver, hugger, laundress and the one she cries to.
Let me not dwell on the toddler years, the big head that filled frame after frame, when my heart focused on height, weight and development. Let me remember but not long for the wobbly first steps. Help me stop telling myself stories of the angry teenager who is not here.
As I write, Olivia Rose has arrived in the world. She is the newest member of our extended family and is held in arms long anticipating her arrival. At only days old she is exquisite, precious and already perfect. She need not do, prove or accomplish for this to be true. Enthusiasm is the water and the joy is the sun that flowers the seeds of unconditional love.
On days when I am tired or lazy, cavalier or distracted, I have to remember the moments I have with my child are not endless. The times when she seeks my company are limited. It is a privilege to help ease her burdens because I will not always be able to meet her needs.
Each day, she is a brand new version of herself in the act of becoming. Aren’t you? Aren’t I? I want to make this awareness an unshakable knowing so I greet Kai and each new day with an open heart and mind.