The skin of my own motherhood is stretching in real time. The little people, who once spent their days circling me like very small tornadoes, are inching out. It’s so heartbreaking! It’s so liberating! It’s so perfectly normal.
These children are the daily reminder that everything is in flux, that signing on the dotted line of parenthood is like entering the accelerated version of the Warp Speed Program of Impermanence. The fine print reads: be prepared to continually accommodate the next stage of children’s changing needs, no prior warnings given. Good luck!
All we parents can do is stand back, widening our orbits ever more, supporting each new incarnation of the child-self, and then allow it to slip off like a shed skin, making room for what’s next.
Beetle-sketching outside of Cuba, NM.
A few weeks ago, Col flew in a 4-seater airplane from Durango to Pagosa Springs for breakfast (and to drum up some business for his custom airplane portrait business). Upon returning, he said, preemptively, to Rose, “Please don’t interrupt me,” and proceeded to share every detail of his experience (Including, “Mom, you’re not going to like this part”—apologetic smile—“the turbulence got really crazy on the return flight. It was my favorite part.“)
I still have hopes that Col will switch his 10-year old homeschool major to library science, but when your kid is enthralled enough to pore over thick, dry airplane reference books (and correct me with amused and gentle solicitousness, “No, Mom, those are called rear stabilizers”), what can you do but become enthusiastic cheerleader to their dreams.
Rose and her younger buddy Jordan found a dog wandering in front of our house, recently. They led him inside, ransacking our pantry for something to feed him (not the elk jerky!), and took him on several tours of the neighborhood. I called the number on the dog’s tag, and Rose and Jordan met the owner out front. They were as proud as if they had returned a stolen piece of art to the Louvre, and promptly announced they were now animal rescuers and would be canvassing the neighborhood for more animals in need. They set off alone and came back an hour later (An hour in which I was celebrating their courage and also, feeling the slight discomfort of the stretch) reporting that they had rescued another dog (our neighbor’s dog, Chloe, an inveterate wanderer) and 3 worms.
Col, contemplating the SF skyline from a ferry boat.
My motherhood skin stretched another inch last week, which Col spent in my hometown, Berkeley, with my parents, including flying there and back without us. He got his ten-year old mind blown by everything a city has to offer, but I think he also grew up a little in those eight days, under the influence of temporarily cutting his parents out of the deal. When Dan picked him up at the airport in Albuquerque, he strolled off the airplane, confident and relaxed, with his new flight attendant buddy (but, somehow not quite grown up enough to have not left his backpack on the airplane).
The best thing going in Albuquerque: urban foraging.
I like to take advantage of the times my children don’t need me. My job is to notice the pitted, baby-missing place in my chest, breathe into it, and then go backpacking with Dan.
This is the way of all things. Larvae to pupa to butterfly. Change and growth. Leaving, returning, and leaving again. You trade in the intoxicating feeling of being the very sun that your children’s planets orbit to something a little more, well, sustainable. Something like each family member harnessing their own planet, always in and out of each others’ gravitational pull.
As I was at home waiting to get the text from Dan that Col’s plane had landed, feeling jacked up on anxiety and my own overactive imagination, (Dan was, meanwhile, at the Albuquerque airport cheerfully watching soccer on the big screen ), I thought: we will never do this again. This, being, let Col out of our sight, let him out into the big, wild world of possibility, of adventure, growth and risk.
But, of course, we will, all of us stretching in the process.