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NaNoWriMo Day #2
Words today: 1782
(These totals do not include these number updates here at the top. If I write more later today, I will update the word total here.)
In the Future
I catch myself enjoying a moment of solitude, a moment where I set my own pace, I daydreamed, I finished a decadently self-interested thought. It is early, the sun not yet up, but the coffee pot beeping and my padding down the hall hasn’t woken anyone else up. This bubble, this glorious, brief, mind-soothing bubble of time, was seven years in the making. It has snuck up me, gently lapping at my frazzled brain, urging me to take it in.
You’re in your future now, it whispers.
My phone buzzes, the sound amplified by its placement on a plate, one of my children’s mysterious interpretation of “Please put my phone on the kitchen counter.” I grab the phone before disaster strikes in the form of waking up the children, and glance at the lock screen to see an unnecessary reminder that it is my youngest’s first day of preschool.
The reminder is not entirely true. My daughter was in preschool last year for two days a week, two hours each day. She learned routines and which swing she preferred and the coziest spot in the classroom to sit and think her little thoughts. By the time I dropped her off, it was practically time to turn around and pick her up. She was barely away from me last year. The year before that she was in a parent-tot class with me. This year, she has longer days at school, and more of them. It will be a true separation, a more independent experience for her. She is three-and-almost-a-half.
My preschool days are over. Hers begin in earnest today.
She is the first one out of bed this morning, although she was the last one asleep last night. She ran down the hall into my arms, anticipating the day ahead. She calls herself “a big girl” multiple times. “I put on my big girl clothes!” “I’m going to finish my breakfast and do my big girl chores!” She is excited to have routines and responsibilities like her older brothers, the twins she so desperately wants to catch-up to. She danced around last night while laying out her official First Day of School clothes, an outfit easy to play in, and her favorite sneakers which I we had gone over with a Mr. Clean Eraser last night. She’s hungry and runs to the cabinet, opening it and looking inside at her options. She never walks. Her feet barely touch the ground when she moves. We make her breakfast and mine, chatting about everything and nothing. She asks to stir the oatmeal herself, which she attends to carefully, holding the little bowl with one hand and the spoon with the other, as we’ve taught her. She has, in between paragraph-long sentences, five bites of oatmeal, most of my yogurt, and all of her juice. She runs off to brush her teeth and wipe out her sink after. She’s excited to use the microfiber cloth that I bought for her. She turns and asks if it’s ok for her to bring her favorite stuffed animal to class. I tell her Kitty can stay in her backpack for today.
My heart is pounding now. It’s not quite an ache and it’s not quite excitement. It resides between. Is it fear? Is it newness? It’s not panic, it’s not pride, it’s not dread. It’s unfamiliar and yet it’s mine and has been mine for years.
You’re in your future now.
My daughter sleeps through the night now, although more often than not I fall asleep next to her, only to be awoken by her gymnastic REM cycles. I usually wake up with her foot planted in my face. She speaks clearly and mostly without the characteristically zany toddler non-sequiturs, although it is hard not to double over in delighted laughter when she says “That naughty wizard wants the ring for his work.” Her eyes are bright and take in everything. She still wants me to sweep her into my arms regularly, but now when I hug her, she pats my back in a heart-wrenchingly adult way, as though she’s comforting me. She laughs when she falls down, instead of gauging me for a response and sobbing if I look at all worried about her tumble. She asks me to stop singing. She breathlessly calls everything “beautiful” – moths, fire pits, a movie on the mechanisms of a bowling alley. She rarely buries her head in me when we are in public anymore, and more often than not will offer a not-at-all-sassy “Hello, Stranger!” to amused passers-by.
One son shuffles down the hall, bypasses the kitchen and flops on the couch, pulling a blanket up to his chin. I ask how his knee is. He got a good scrape when he fell off his two-wheeler yesterday. He only recently learned to ride, despite his being in second grade now, after a few falls last summer, terrible fear of failure, fighting his inadequacy seeing his twin brother take to riding a two-wheeler, and his fear of scratches. “It might take you a few days to learn, but you will,” we told him. And it took, literally, four minutes. He laughed at his own mental dragons.
He slays those more readily now, laughing himself out of his own funk. He’s not a morning person, but instead of pouting and crying and stomping, he tells me he needs time to wake up and start the day. He articulates that the transition to second grade is tricky for him, and he just needs a few weeks to “get into the groove.” He’s taken to the new routine of homework without complaint, and runs to me proudly to check his work. He is careful in his studies, and wants me to see that he is doing his best. I don’t always have to harangue him to practice piano – brushing his teeth is a different story. He hugs me awkwardly, as his head comes right up to my chest. His emotions are still big, but he’s learning he’s bigger. He holds it together. His sense of irony and sarcasm is growing, although it still needs boundaries. He could probably still use a nap every day. He won’t eat his breakfast this morning, or any morning, until the last possible moment.
His brother bounds down the hall, smiling at me and chirping a good morning. He makes himself a bagel and asks me to pour him some juice. It’s harder to get a hug out of him these days. He starts talking to anyone who will listen about Minecraft. I interrupt him at the eighteen-minute mark to ask him if he packed a snack for his sports class after school. He has, last night, and proceeds to give me his ninth retelling of a sports-related injustice he experienced last week in the class. He is processing, but has a plan to deal with it. “Do you need any help or advice?” I ask. “Nope.” He smiles. He’s tough which is good because he’s clumsy and left handed and bumps into things in this right—hand world.Then he tells me a joke. It’s horrible, as it was when he fumbled over his first few knock-knock jokes a few years ago, but the word play is clever and mature. “That’s terrible.” I say dryly, and he laughs. “Maybe it’ll be funnier when you have some coffee,” he counters.
You’re in your future now.
They all eventually finish their breakfast in between squabbles and excited predictions about the day. The boys have been in school for a few weeks, so they are giving their sister advice to manage her day, which she laps up. It takes effort to keep them on schedule. They fall over each other trying to put shoes on and cram last-minute items into bags. They are a jumble. They seem to have forgotten the jealousies that consumed the house last year, usually over who they thought was getting the most attention for being the oldest, or the youngest, the cutest, the most injured, the least injured, the happiest, the saddest, the quietest, the loudest, or whoever was next to me at the moment.
We all exchange unembarrassed “I love you’s” and they pile into the car, a mess of arms and legs and oversized backpacks that threaten to topple them over.
I drop my daughter off at school, and hang around for a few moments with the other parents. There is coffee and chatter to ease our nerves. Before going home, I take one last peek into the class window, making sure my daughter cannot see me. She is failing spectacularly at Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and loving every minute of it, her eyes carefully on her teacher. She’s fine, as I knew she would be. I go home.
I move slowly through my morning, enjoying the quiet, feeling not at all nostalgic, but certainly feeling out of phase. I write and pick up and find things that have been shoved into corners and cushions. I stare out the window. I am unfamiliar with my own company, and will need time to get to know myself again. I enjoy precious opportunity to go to the bathroom. Alone and unrushed, without fingers poking under the door.
I’m in that spot I’ve been racing towards for six years. I am breathing.
The kids need me, but that need is tempered by some self-sufficiency, and self-awareness. They’re not afraid of fireworks or ghosts, and they still let me believe that they believe in the tooth fairy. Or maybe they actually believe. “Cope” is no longer a four letter word, but coping now also involves the willing acceptance of hugs when offered.
“You’ll look back and miss these days” I do and I don’t. I look back in wonder and shock and confusion at the fluidity of time. I look back at all the platitudes that linger and hover around parenting young ones. Those tiny wisps of wisdom all converge into storm clouds of “Wait until they are teenagers.” I choose to look at a different part of the parenting sky for now. The teen years will arrive when they arrive.
I can’t say I feel like myself again, after years of deferring my needs, years of being awake and years of giving until it felt like I’d been pecked to pieces, only slowly to be rebuilt. I am new. Different. Stronger in some ways, smoothed out in others. Definitely ruffled after so many nights of wondering how much longer, when will I get a moment? When will I exhale? When will I sleep? When will I feel, even briefly, that I can do it?
I’m in my future.