Lost in a storm
At times, they seem incredibly small. When Loaf undresses, I study the delicate curve of her shoulders, the way her back feeds into a tiny waistline. Her face still holds a measure of babyness; her round cheeks fold around rosebud lips.
Peanut is bigger, but not by much. Her legs get more coltish by the month, but she stands at roughly half my height. Her voice is soft and pure, sometimes barely audible above the whir of the engine in the truck.
They are both small, delicately boned and at times seem achingly vulnerable.
I watched them today in the pool at the YMCA – their last swimming lesson of the summer. Loaf is easily the smallest child taking lessons in the Monday-Wednesday 3:30 timeslot. She dogpaddles (sort of) around the pool with just her nose and eyes visible above the glassy surface. If the instructor were to let her go, she would sink to the bottom – no part of her visible in the four-foot water even if she stood straight and tall.
Peanut clung to her instructor as she moved her out to a five-foot depth – not confident enough to let go and try swimming – really swimming - on her own. I could hear her pleading, “Don’t let me go! Don’t let me go!”
They are so tiny, I thought watching them in the Y’s enormous pool – two teeny fish in a very big pond.
Less than an hour later, my perception shifted.
We left the Y and went to a local playground – one Mark has taken them to, but I’ve not. They love this park with its castle theme. They head straight for the side of the playground labeled “Designed for 5 to 12 year-olds. Play with caution.”
And within minutes they are climbing up rock walls to landings high above my head. They scale a fake boulder then fearlessly leap off to the ground below – even sticking the landing.
Most remarkable of all, they slide down a tall “fireman’s pole.” The entry point requires a daring step off the platform of at least a foot. There is a moment – a long moment – when they are suspended in space with one hand clutching the pole, the toes of one foot wrapped around it, while the other two remain planted safely on the platform. In that moment, I stand below, breathless, arms stretched high, face turned up, wondering if I could really catch them if they slip.
And then they go for it – a fantastic leap that results in both hands grasping the pole, each foot twisting around it - and down they come, slowly at first and then gaining momentum and speed. I finally exhale when both their feet meet the ground again.
My God, I think. Look at all they can do. Look at how big and brave they are.
And so it goes as I navigate their childhood. At times their growth catches me off guard. One moment, they are pushing me away with a firm declaration of, ”I can do myself!”
The next they rush toward me, arms outstretched, fearful and small, needing to be lifted up and comforted.
The constant shifting from independence to reliance leaves me breathless. The continual change keeps me on edge – standing motionless in the midst of a twisting storm, never knowing what’s next. Never quite finding solid ground of my own.