I spent last night, the night before Mads' very first day of kindergarten, poring over old photographs. I meant to be in bed by 10:30, but it was almost midnight by the time I finally dragged myself away, wiping tears aside with the back of my hand.
I really didn't think it would be this hard. After all, I've been desperate for her to get to this point. I just wanted her to be a little bit older, a little bit more independent, a little bit less... turbulent. And now we're here and I suddenly just want it all to stop. I know the day will come when she won't want to curl herself against me on the couch, when she won't need me to tuck her in, to count stars in the summer sky, to play pirates or princess or "homeless girl" (it's a new one... don't ask). I just don't want it to come too fast.
Love, loss and 5-year-olds
"Moooomm!" Mads screeched as she threw herself at me. "You have to see this! It's the most exciting thing in your whole world!"
She grabbed my hand and tugged, pulling me toward the bathroom.
We're thankfully past the stage where I have to bear witness to every deposit left in the toilet ("Look! A mommy poo and two baby poos! Maybe they're going to the bookstore!") so I wasn't really sure what all the fuss was about. But I soon found out.
"A butterfly!" she breathed, pointing at the ceiling. "A butterfly came to live in our bathroom!"
Now, to be honest, it actually wasn't a butterfly but a tiny black-and-white moth. But as far as Mads was concerned it was the most amazing creature on the planet. And it had come to live with us.
Unfortunately, though, it died with us, too. Last night when I sent her in to brush her teeth she came right back out of the washroom, stricken.
Time keeps on ticking
But then, maybe I'm just quick to tears these days. It's been a hard couple of weeks. My grandma died on the weekend. It wasn't sudden, I guess, but it seemed that way, and came just as we were all trying to wrap our heads around a different family tragedy. It's strange, isn't it? No matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how clearly you see it inching closer, death always seems to come as a surprise. An entire day passed before it struck me that I have no grandparents left.
I suddenly feel very conscious of the passing of time.
I can see it in my Mads, in her changing face and long, lean limbs. I can see it in the way she chews on the ends of her hair, in the way she has little time left for bluebirds and ladybugs. I can see it in my sweet baby A, who is becoming less of a baby every day. Sometimes it seems as though the days are racing by us.
Things are framed by sadness at the moment, but through it I see how lucky I am: For all the memories already made and all those yet to come.
(pic: Granny & Mads)
“I have a secret,” she told me, out of the blue.
“You do? What is it?” I asked, trying to sound casual, trying not to beg her to spill it, to tell me.
“I can’t tell you… it’s a secret,” she said, drawing the last word out as though I might not know what it means.
“Oh,” I said. “Okay. You don’t have to tell me.”
I folded a few more tiny T-shirts, everything pink and spattered with glitter.
“Is it your secret or did somebody else tell it you?” I asked her, not quite ready to let it go.
“Well, if it’s your secret then you can tell me if you want to,” I reasoned. “It’s up to you.”
She fixed her eyes on me for several seconds, trying to decide if I was worthy of it.
“Okay, I can tell you,” she finally announced.
She scooted over next to me, half on my lap as she leaned her head against mine, her mouth against my ear, her arm wrapped around the back of my neck. Even though we were the only ones home she whispered it, her tiny secret, to me in a quiet, hushed voice.
Honestly, I can’t really recall exactly what she said – and of course I wouldn’t tell you anyways. It went on for a while, going off track, up, down and sideways, the way tales usually do when they’re told by a preschooler. But the moment wasn’t lost on me. My little girl, with one tiny foot dipped in the big, wide world, sharing stories that are all her own.
One day I know she’ll have secrets that she won’t want to tell me. But not yet.
Major milestone alert!
Just typing those words, I feel a weight lift off my shoulders.
The first birthday marks a giant step toward a place where things start to make some sense again. It means we've made it through that minefield of baby-dom, with its utter exhaustion and endless crying (hers, mostly) and rolling waves of anxiety (mine, entirely).
Wow. If the folks over at Pampers read this they're going to want me to write their next ad campaign: "Your baby. Keep her dry as she crushes your will to live."
And then the universe laughed in my face
There are some days that end like this: F finally walks through the door, I hand him a baby, give him an update and tell him I'm leaving. Not forever, of course. Just for now. For twenty minutes, or an hour. However long it takes for the ringing in my ears to subside, for sanity to return.
I get in the car, turn up the radio, roll down the window and just drive. No destination, no grand plan, no screaming or chattering from the back seat. Just music and breeze and freedom. Today I ended up at the ocean, as I usually do.
I got out of the car, coffee from the drive-thru Starbucks in hand, and walked down to the beach. The air was still cold, but it carried the scent of spring. Cherry blossoms and freshly cut grass. And perspective slowly returned: A crying baby, a broken vase, a dirty house, a lunch time tantrum ("Fine. I'm never eating anything ever again!") - frustrating as hell, sure, but not worth losing it over.
And then I felt a slight thump on my shoulder. Was it a friend who happened to be out wandering the same stretch of beach? A stranger stopping to chat about the gorgeous day? The hand of God, maybe, reaching out to tell me that everything is going to be okay?
No. It was bird shit. On my shoulder, in my hair, and seeping down my back.
Some days just suck.
(ps - Project Happy is still underway... but it took a time-out today.)
Just another day at the zoo
Mads, as she comes bouncing into the kitchen, laughing, jumping, screaming: "Mom, guess what I'm on right now, but don't tell me, okay?"
Me, in my head: "Crack." Me, out loud: "Okay."
Mads: "Okay... Did you guess a donkey?"
When babies attack
I know it's not all that maternal a thing to say, but in my own defence it's the truth. Maybe it's teething or some kind of developmental spurt, or maybe a voodoo doctor crept into our house in the middle of the night and cast an 11-month hex on her, but for whatever reason A has morphed into crazy baby and I'm having a hard time adjusting.
For one thing, she yells. All day long, she yells. Not because she has a wet diaper, not because she's hungry. Because she's plain old pissed off, usually at me. She gets into these tiny baby rages because I've dared to, say, close the bathroom door or stop her from attacking the big screen TV or remove the ball of dog hair from her mouth. And it's amazing how loud she yells. If I weren't so concerned about the lasting damage being done to my eardrums I might even be impressed by it.
The big 5. Oh no.
Five! How can that be? She's way too young to be 5. I'm way too young for her to be 5. Forget the midlife crisis, I'm having a kindergarten one.
I'd pull the sheets over my head and ignore it if I could, but of course she won't let me. "Remember I'm a 5-year-old now, Mom?" "I can do it by myself, I'm a 5-year-old." "That was a 5-year-old hug." "The tag on my shirt says 5, and I'm 5 now - it's perfect!"
I'll never understand any of this
Mads and I have really been at odds lately, for the first time in our little life together. It's put me off-kilter.
We have a funny sort of relationship, the two of us. It's a hard thing to put into words. I very clearly remember the day she turned one month old: We sat together in utter misery together at my parents' house in the early hours of the morning. She was wailing, which wasn't uncommon, and I was settling into a sinkhole of depression. To be more specific, I was thinking about nice it must feel to drown. I looked over at her in her blue bouncy chair and she stopped crying and smiled her first ever smile. Completely out of the blue, right at me. Since then, through whatever else, we've been on the same side.