Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lost in a storm

Watching my children grow is an ongoing contradiction where perceptions shift suddenly and endlessly like sand in a windstorm.

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is absolutely how I feel. You put it perfectly. One moment they are my babies; the next, they are such big children.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Isn't it amazing? They are so small but their spirits are so large!

I admit I treat Little B as if he is still a baby, I seem to forget at times that he's 3. At playgrounds I was climbing the equipment with him or holding on to him as he navigated the perilously high stairs or slides and then one day at daycare I watched from the window as he climbed up the enormous jungle gym in one fluid motion, never faltering or teetering and I realized it was time to let him move on his own!

Sigh, they grow up too fast. How many times have I said that?

12:43 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

You are such a good mother!
Your girls are lucky to have you.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous xup said...

It's strange because that dichotomy seems to last forever. Even when they get as big as you they still have their, "I need mummy" times when it feels like they're still wee tiny things (except your legs fall asleep a lot faster when you have a teenager cuddled in your lap)

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely put Kim. As I watch major mook on the football field I think how "little" he is compared to the other guys, then he comes and stands beside moderate and mini mook and acts like such a BIG brother and he seems so grown up. But then we get home and as he is cooking himself his own dinner and I am putting his little bro's to bed he says put them to bed quickly so we can snuggle!

As I tuck in my oldest child I am reminded of how little he still is, but now he looks at me and says lock the doors and leave the hall light on, such a mixture of old and young all in one little-big kid =)

11:13 PM  
Blogger BoufMom9 said...

Fantastic visual!
I really enjoyed meeting you last night at the BlogHer event, even if it was just briefly.
:) Debi

10:24 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

Perfect post. Just so very true.

9:59 PM  

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