Yesterday was the last day of second grade. Z’s class watched the Smurfs and Jessie apparently. I know this because after pickup Z and her friend both tried to recount the plot of the Jessie episode and I had to tune them out. Hearing Jessie plots breathlessly rehashed by two seven year olds is actually worse then watching the show itself. But that’s fine. They learned things this year. Just not, you know, in the past two weeks.
So, it’s summer again and the seasons they go round and round, painted ponies and all that. It is pretty easy to get sucked into weeping and feeling panicked that this life is speeding by like one of those TV renovation shows where there’s a dump of a house and then suddenly everyone’s fixing it up in a 2 minute montage and then a backsplash and an accent wall and built ins and books arranged by color all emerge. We don’t see the bathroom breaks and the walks around the block and the lunches and the gossiping about the contractor. We only see the doing, edited down to barely anything.
But life isn’t really that. These milestones, these beginnings and ends, they have this heightened emotional quality, because we try and get a handle on things and highlight them because otherwise, what ARE we doing? Of course, we record them — the end of year performances, the moving up thingies, the last hugs with their teachers with our ubiquitous phones held up in front of us while we half watch the performances, distracted by the idea that we might not get the shot. Because if we don’t record, will we forget? Will we not feel the preciousness of the moment unless other people give us a thumbs up on Facebook? It almost like we think we CAN hold onto any of these fleeting moments if we only record and catalogue and share. Then at least there’s documentation. It’s something.
With all of this mad documenting though, the result can be a racing feeling, an anxious feeling, and sometimes an out of control feeling. It’s almost too much at times. Scary world + innocent kids doing adorable things = please god let this all go well for them. Or something like that – math isn’t really my thing.
What I’ve been doing to counteract my larger existential anxiety when things are moving too fast in this way is to try to stand there in it, in those lumpy throated moments when the kids perform a World Cup dance on a stage and I feel like I simply can’t bear the sweetness and the wonder of this fleeting innocence. Or when they lope around the park after school, I see them from behind scootering away from me and watch their once tiny bodies stretch into tall big kid bodies. I try to just be in it, to just go: wow, they are changing every second and I am changing too. I’m not 22, even though I feel that way sometimes.
Because of course I am older, not because people call me ma’am in American Apparel, but because we are just aging and that’s what we fucking have to do. No one can make it stop, and no one can really take care of us except ourselves. And this past year in particular has held a shift for me, as I truly let go of the need for someone to turn to in that role.
This is sad, but ultimately good. I think maybe I’m a better parent to my kids now that I’ve internalized that control really is an illusion, that I can only do so much, and that luck will play a huge role in all of it. We can only try as hard as we can and love as much as we can and the rest is sort of not even up to us. Being as present as possible seems the only salve for feeling out of control.
Last year at this time, things really were spinning off of their axis. I really did feel like parts of my body were in danger of falling off. I was so tormented about every bit of life moving forward without my mom. Everything felt painful and impossible.
And now I cry a little less easily, and there is an acceptance now that I am the parent – to myself and to these other two people — one of two adults in this house taking care of business. They need me and I need them and this is what this is — all this is. Of course it’s still sad that I don’t have my mom to witness Z’s punk song she performed onstage, or M shuffling down the hall every time he has to pee with his pants around his ankles because he just can’t figure out the order, but it will be ok. And not just because I take the videos and pictures and share them with my friends, but also because these things really happen every minute and I notice them and I feel them and then we move on.