I walked down the hallway outside my daughter’s classroom, having just escaped from her loving clutches. Another goodbye kiss. A pout. A hug. Extraction from her need.
As I looked back over my shoulder, my mind paused the litany of the day’s to-do list. Art projects hung on the wall, backpacks lined the hall on hooks. It was empty and quiet, yet full. And so temporary.
A sweetness hung in the air as I realized how short-lived this relentless phase of my life truly is. Already I strain to recall waking them up from their afternoon naps, hair rumpled and messy, faces slightly smushed from sleeping so hard in their beds. Sleepy arms reaching for me, their source of love and comfort.
These days it’s a hug outside the classrooms for Duncan as he trots off to fourth grade with his friends. I still sneak in a hug, a kiss to his head, a whiff of his hair.
“I love you,” he called out this morning before turning away.
“I love you too. Have a good day.” My heart squeezed and bloomed at the same time.
He rarely kisses me in return now and I keenly miss those sweet lips. Berry gives kisses on the lips still. How can I begrudge her a single one, even in the midst of her classroom at the beginning of the day?
I will miss every one of these hectic mornings one day. A day somehow not too far from now. And yet, yet I know I have to live right now. That it’s OK to feel harried and frustrated with the little people who don’t always yet know reason. Even knowing that I’ll want some of these moments back a decade from now doesn’t make me not want to hurry right on through some of them as I’m living them.
It does help, though, at times. Knowing that one day I’ll be able to tell the stories of my step-daughter’s reluctance to brush her hair, or my daughter’s demands to be read the weather report before getting dressed, or my son’s daily request to watch a Minecraft parody video before getting out of bed (to prolong two of his favorite things: Minecraft and cuddles). And they’ll be funny. Just like the stories of naked temper tantrums at bedtime, Thanksgiving projectile vomit and accidentally locking them in the car outside the supermarket and watching them hit each other until the firemen appeared have been magically changed from angst to humor through the perspective of time.
This morning both kids climbed into Duncan’s bed with me, refusing to leave and get on with the morning routine unless I somehow made them.
“Why would I ever get out of my bed when I can keep getting cuddles while I’m in it?” Duncan asked me. Why indeed. It’s a wonder we ever make it out of the house.
They won’t always want me volunteering in their classrooms. Or chaperoning field trips. Or staying in their rooms until they fall asleep at night, their sweet faces turning slack as their breath softens. And even so, I can’t absorb myself entirely with their lives. I have to do work of my own and maintain my own sense of self and purpose.
After all, as soon as they’re able to make their own decisions about how and where to live their lives, my feelings and desires won’t factor into it. It’ll be all about their wants and needs for their lives. Just as it was for mine as a teenager and young adult. Just as it should be.
So we find our balance.
They pull me toward them and I neither pull back nor unravel all of myself into their arms. They move away, independent in their thoughts and activities, and I neither standby at the ready nor move forward too much with my life, knowing I’ll be called back momentarily.
I wonder sometimes how my days will flow a decade from now? What will I do with my evenings instead of spending hours prodding children through the bedtime routine — dinner, play, bath, books, cuddles? Will I miss making school lunches and writing notes from the vegetables begging the kids to eat them or drawing faces on hard boiled eggs? What happens when no one wants me to read books aloud to them, even though I do awesome voices?
I suppose I can’t imagine it truly, just as I couldn’t know what today would be like a decade ago, when Duncan was not yet even growing in my belly. I do know I’ll continue to adapt and adjust, learning to be the mother they need during the time in their lives they’re in, and the woman I need to be for myself.
What a journey this is, ephemeral moments strung together into a lifetime.