They say kids grow accordion-style: first they plump up a bit, then they stretch out a bit, then they plump up again… I thought of that just now, as I re-read some of my old blog posts (it started as a 6-month review of sorts; I was wondering how I was doing with my New Years’ resolutions). A similar pattern of emotional growth emerges: I get overwhelmed, then I stretch to overcome the next hurdle, only to repeat the whole "oh this is all so hard I don’t know what I’m doing," shtick.
It’s absolutely true that I haven’t known what I was doing most of the time lately. And I haven’t yet dissolved into a heap of ineptitude. I’m not exactly checking off everything on my 2009 To Do list, but, even in a bad economy, even after a year of bad sleep, I’ve grown and changed continuously, both personally and professionally, and I can take stock of my life and feel hopeful. For one thing: I know that life will continue to change rapidly.
That built-in guarantee of change and development is a powerful perk of parenthood. You simply cannot stagnate if you stay in touch with a young child. I see this clearly in our house, which continuously needs to be cleaned and re-arranged to accommodate Leo’s next phase. We’ve worked to create a home that’s cheerful, open and fun for Leo, and we all enjoy being in it as a result. I spend a good amount of time going through old toys and outgrown clothes, trying to stock the fridge with cooked food that Leo will actually eat, and generally bringing groceries, clothes, furniture and the like up and down the stairs. It’s a very fluid existence (don’t get me started on fluids—there seem to be an awful lot of them around this week).
Of course, when I’m buying a toddler car seat, steaming kohlrabi, planning picnics and putting away toys, I’m not reading a book, I’m not at the gym (I’m never at the gym, frankly), I’m not making salad and I’m not working. All those adult activities are pretty sidelined. They happen during the three 6-hour days when we have childcare, and some evenings after dinner. I don’t think I really grasped this scenario when I wrote down my wish-list for the New Year last December. But you know, I’m happier not having the option of working all the time, and I’m getting (almost) enough done.
Plus, it’s all about to change again. Not only because Leo will be walking soon, and talking, and throwing us some new curve balls that I can’t anticipate, but also because I’m heading back to school later this month. In Vermont. For 6 weeks. With Leo. This is going to be a huge change for all of us. I’ll be finishing my Master’s, Leo will be in daycare and Aaron will be coming up for long weekends. I have absolutely no idea what this will look like; The first 4 summers of this Master’s program were so intense I had no time for anything else, and for this final term I’ll be doing my schoolwork while being a mom.
For now, I’m focusing on how great it will be to get Leo out of the city for the summer, to have my mom around to help (she’ll be up for much of the time) and, the last week of the program, to send Leo home with Aaron so that I can finish up my schoolwork. That last week, all by myself in a country house with my books and my papers, will be a return to a way of living that I’ve pretty much forgotten. I have no idea what it will feel like. But I’m used to that.