The other night, when the kids were all tucked in bed, and the apartment was in complete shambles–sand was scattered all over the wood floors, moist towels on the radiators, and what remained of dinner still floating on the dinning room table–I had this intense feeling of gratitude. It was a new sense of gratitude that I think is reserved for this next grown-up kid phase of motherhood, the motherhood that comes with seven-and-a-half and four. Maybe also a motherhood that happens in the very last years of my 20s (as of last week), a decade during which I was mostly pregnant, delivering babies, or nursing them. I’ve said this before, mentioned this gratitude; but this is different. I am different. We are different. But this intense feeling, it screams, “This is who we are!” This is life: the pain, the beauty, and the warp-speed growth of the last year. In this gratitude, I don’t yearn for something I once had–for the babies my children used to be. This is who I am now, this is what life is now, and I am wholly present in it.
Parenthood can be a lot of grieving, especially watching babies take big-kid shape. And it’s good to mourn each phase as it passes, but not to the extent that we overlook the beauty of what they’re growing into. Lately, this is what I’ve noticed: the way R’s curls have grown out to the middle of her back. Oak’s open heart surgery scar is actually the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. And when he is alone with me, he speaks so intensely, finishing a story, stutters and all, from beginning until end. Our conversations range from how often we should wash our hands, to how my father died and if cancer is contagious. It is deep. This is what is happening in the now and my body and mind say, “LaTonya, this is who you are! This is good. Hold on.”
What else to do when it seems like the next seven months are pretty planned out? We are all hypocrites by the end of summer, saying we’re moving slow when we’re really moving fast. We’ve got school coming up, and holidays, and birthdays, and a book, and traveling. Even writing those words, I feel a stiffness creeping up through my neck, gearing up for the busyness and the speed at which time will pass. So the tears come. That night, with them in their beds and everything a mess and sobs welling up in my chest, I stopped and told myself: we’ve still got that small red spot on the map, the one that says, “YOU ARE HERE.” And sometimes “HERE” is a mess; but “HERE” is also who you are, and the chance to be grateful for that.
If you feel like you’re busy mourning what once was, I urge you to note your tiny red pin and really allow yourself to feel what it means. Sure, it is fucking hard. It means looking back and forward at the same time, almost, and that means you can see how you’ve grown, the work you’ve done, and the true depth of what life is.