My girls are sitting each in their new bedrooms after having grown up together in one 11’ by 11’ room. After six months of construction and renovation, we still have small mounds of moving boxes stacked in corners as we fit ourselves back into the house. Every day we tackle a few more boxes, but we’re weeks away from being finished.
At 8 and 10, the girls are as different as night and day, as shown by the colors they picked for their rooms: school-bus yellow with a ceiling fan with rockets on it for the 10 year old, shades of sky blue and lavender for the 8 year old, whose ceiling fan is white with little Victorian swirls on it.
They are big girls now. They rarely look back when they leave me now, usually don’t want me near by when they play. They were upset we didn’t put locks on their bedrooms doors (I simply couldn’t), and we have granted them their own CD players and the space in which to play music away from us. And I’m mourning every bit of it.
This morning I unpacked some of my clothes out of an old sturdy diaper box that has been my seasonal storage for eight years, and then I threw the box away. It’s way past time for something new. Gone too are sippy cups, night lights, tiny little socks. We’ve divided the furniture of their old room between their two new rooms: the bookcase I painted while pregnant with my second daughter in one room, the circular rug with lions and giraffes in the other.
I hardly remember the days when I lugged one girl on each hip, banged my head on the car roof after clipping both of them into car seats, and dressed them in adorable dresses of my own choosing. That forgetting makes me panic. Now that they are in their new rooms – the homes for their increasingly independent inner lives – it’s an obvious, disquieting demarcation: my little girls are growing up.
The first years of our family were very intense. We started out with many of life’s main stressors: a parental death, a move, chronic illness, and having two children close together. My feeling is that I didn’t cope very well. But they taught me, I managed somehow in a treading-water sort of way, but in a deep sense I was hardly present. A lot of moms have told me it’s been similar for them, and one friend told me that her sense of being present, feeling somewhat competent, and enjoying herself, didn’t happen to her until her third child.
Well, we are sticking at two, thank heavens, so I don’t want to miss any more of this intense and precious job that is the core of my life. It’s time to reflect more, write down more of those beautiful moments, think more coherently about those parenting questions that haunt me. Because when I became a mother, that became who I was. I just had to do it that way. Now, there also is this post-diaper-box woman and she needs to grow stronger and louder. Many moms seem to have pulled that off earlier in their parenting, but I couldn’t. I’ve hardly written in 10 years, except for desperate journal scrawlings. I think that can change now.
Here is my mothering practice, my whole-being practice. The goal: that I dip down inside myself further, see them more deeply, become more present as I grow out of frantic motherhood. So that when they go, my heart will be full, knowing I have been present as they became women.