Tired. Inside and out.
All I can do is leave the hurricane on the living room floor, the dishes in the sink. My unfinished work in my studio. The bills that will be overdue if I wait until Monday. All I can do is sit and smell the girls, eat fish n’ chips while watching So You Think You Can Dance, work on our own moves in the living room while blasting the neighbors out with the iPod dock station, and walk to the ice cream store and indulge in slushies, sprinkled with penny candy of choice; usually Pixie Sticks.
Sitting next to the girls at the beach, they were smiling and finding their way to my chair on occasion, lean in and run their hands absentmindedly down my arm or dig to cover my feet with sand.
Claire tends to lean in close and put her face right in mine. Sometimes she blows in my nose or shakes her wet hair over me and I pretend to cringe and shiver. Other times, she asks to turn my face so she can tell me a secret, which is usually “I love you.” On a day she is mad at her sister, she may say “I’m never speaking to Anna again, as long as I live, EVER.” in a sort of evil-babyish-chuckie-doll-possessed-whisper.
It was recently that the girls decided they were going to start calling me “Mom” instead of “Mommy.” I felt a bit “off” upon hearing that but am a bit grateful they’ve forgotten and it only lasted about an hour.
At the beach the other day, Claire was with her grandmother and Anna was with me. Around two o’clock she came to me and asked if she could get a slushie.
I did a little risk taking and handed her two dollars and said “Here, go over to the red snack shack and ask for a lemon slushie, hand her the money, she will give you the slushie and fifty cents in change and don’t forget to say thank you.”
My shy girl grabbed the money from me and BY HERSELF, ran across the sand and up the steps in the midst of a group of high schoolers and tourists and stood in line for her treat. As she ran off, I yelled “AND DON’T CUT IN LINE!”
I didn’t take my eyes off her during the following fifteen minutes, as she slowly moved up in line, tiny in the midst of the rest of the people going to get sandwiches and smoothies and other things that took longer than a quick pick from the chest freezer … when it was her turn, she disappeared, the massive line building up behind her.
Suddenly, she broke free. With slushie in hand, running across the sand with a smile on her face, towards me.
I realized right there, her confidence had gone up a notch. The pride on her face (and mine) proved that perhaps I wasn’t totally screwing up in the mothering. And I realized a little bit of sadness too as this was a reminder that both girls will at some point be going off into the world on their own, whether I think I can stop it or not.
I don’t want to and I won’t try.
Some things I do rejoice in, where I feel the need to stick my foot out and nudge their bottoms. To be sure they will eventually make it out on their own one day. Work to pay the rent or mortgage. Follow their passions. Safely cross the street. Be able to make something other than scrambled eggs for dinner. Know how to clean a coffee pot.
My secret hope is that they will know how to make bread, without a machine and I hope that’s not pushing it.
My greatest hope is that they will always remain safe and decide things for themselves based on a perfect mix of emotion and intellect, leading with their hearts and gut, but rationalizing with their minds.
I start with the small things that they can shower on their own and get dressed. That I don’t need to sit there beside the tub reading a magazine while they play in the bubbles and fight over toys. I still find myself wandering in and sitting on the closed toilet seat to listen to their conversations or scrub their hair, even though they can do it on their own.
The notion still surprises me, that they can paint and color without my worrying that it’s going to end up as a mixed media mural on the kitchen cabinets. Or the floor. Or the handmade quilt draped over the back of the couch, for that matter.
Decisions I let them make, for instance, is a slight test on both our parts. Which for me bundles into the saying “choose your battles”, and often means “give them a little leeway, let them breathe, show them what it feels like.” Sure, there are decisions like “what skirt will you wear to Sunday School today?” or “Do you want an apple or applesauce as your fruit for lunch?”
But to watch them create relationships with kids at the playground or work out a conflict over story choices at night, or hold back from a tantrum when things aren’t going the way they intended, takes a little breath from me … but in return, I feel it is being placed inside of them for strength and courage. I like to think that anyway.
And then there are the unspoken decisions they make for themselves that I let go, I watch and wonder what urged them in their heads to do some of the things they do.
Claire, last night, took a bath and went upstairs to get her pajamas on. She ended up in a semi-formal tank top with ruffles and capri pants, adorned with colored flowers and ribbon. I figured later, she would change into her pajamas, but alas, at story time, she announced she’d be wearing the outfit to bed. The night before, she wore a skirt and blouse. The night before, her bathing suit, which she dug out of the clean laundry basket.
And as we settled in bed after stories and hymns, she arranged her bedding while I stood by and patiently watched, hoping it wouldn’t take unusually long. Sometimes it takes a minute, sometimes twenty.
Within seconds, she had turned herself around and made a bed for herself, her head at the foot of her bed, her feet on her pillow.
And there she slept all night.
This morning though, I realized as they climbed into bed with me after they woke up, that some things will probably always stay.