There is an almost unspeakable joy in seeing your own child nurture and love another. When the other child, is your cousin’s own adorable blossoming baby boy… it is hard not to get emotional.
Aidyn, not yet two, being pushed on the very blue and plastic little push car my daughter, Kai, used when she was a toddler makes my own heart roll up and down the street with their bodies. His laughter, her eagerness to hold his hand lift me up and make me feel as expansive as they sky they are looking at where there is a plane.
Kai is no longer an infant or a toddler or preschooler now. She is a tween capable of holding a baby on her hip, wanting to make him laugh and smile. Aidyn is now the soul I remember recently in his Mama’s about to burst belly just two short years ago. Now, he says, “Mama. Mama,” and does the universal arms out “uppy” knowing he will be lifted and held.
“Can I read it to him?” Kai said about his favorite book when his parents were gone having a rare date night. She pulled her chair close to mine so she could read and show pictures. She read every single page with dramatic emphasis.
When Aidyn babbled, sometimes words I could hear and others I wasn’t clear on, she said she would translate as she understood everything he was saying. “I think he asked what erosion is” she said and I smiled. “Maybe,” I said. “Why don’t you tell him since you just learned about that at school.”
In the kitchen, on the floor, while pointing at the refrigerator he spoke, reminding me of the times she stood up and gave speeches and monologues that only she understood. Her father and I used to be a captive audience responding to facial expressions and hand movements. It stuns me that a full decade has passed.
Aidyn, at almost two, is in a physical relationship with discovery and the world. When do we stop splaying our entire bodies out as he did when looking under tables? Even getting up and down, on and off the piano bench seems as much a discovery as the actual pressing of piano keys. It’s a full body movement to get up and down, to run and chase, to follow the cat around the house and get close enough to touch her fur.
When Kai was a toddler, I was often tired, mind-numbingly bored and sleep deprived. I was also deeply engaged in every aspect of her physical, emotional and mental development. Her attachment needs, her nutrition and tasks allowing her to catch up on her motor skills and development. It doesn’t seem so long ago. Now, she is not only a totally dependent young child but an oozy ball of love and attentiveness.
She knows how to offer care and attention, how to guide on stairs and to make funny faces meant to elicit joy. I felt a little triumphant because I remembered the times she froze as a baby, how it took a while after leaving an orphanage for her to learn to trust, to expect responsiveness and before she could melt back and lean into my body as we poured over board books like Brown Bear. Now she is reading the words to him, words so familiar I remember them and can mouth them as she reads them to him.
Now I understand those moments when you can see your child’s face and see into the past, see all of the ages they ever were, but also get hints and clues, glimpses into a future they may inhabit. I went from being reminded of Kai as a toddler, to imagining her as a full-grown woman who might one day be a mother herself.
Mostly, it was just joy when she holds him on her hip, fully confident and able to make him feel secure while also pointing to a place in the sky. I feel lucky to parent an eleven year old.
I pulled a case of wooden train tracks out of the closet, a set not opened for years, and was reminded of the years of laying tracks with Kai, playing trains with Kai, being belly down on the floor and discovering wheels and patterns, play and motion, stillness and concentration within play.
But for it to be the same set, the very train tracks and trains Kai’s long ago fingers touched and for Aidyn to be holding them as brand new to his fingers – it was one of those circle of life moments. It was bitter or sweet or bitter-sweet – just pure. The tracks themselves hold memories and energy.
These memories and new experiences mix together. The laying of track, the repeated experience of joy and company, play and productivity, curiosity and reciprocity, in toddler years and forever more, is what matters most.
It’s one soul paying attention to another that makes the spirit and soul at ease, resting and eager to create and discover and explore. It can be easy to forget, in the rush of busy and productive life, but it was so simple and beautiful.
I am becoming that stranger in the grocery store smiling at babies, telling young mothers to get sleep, go on date nights, take moments for themselves and also, to appreciate it because it goes so fast.
To be allowed to nurture someone’s child is a gift and an honor and a trust I am so grateful to be earning. To Aidyn and his parents I say, “Thank you. More please. Again”