We walked on the beach where just hours ago we would have been underwater two-fold or maybe three. The sun slid down the sky, rushing to meet the horizon and we paused to watch. It was one of those big-ball-of-fire sunsets that made me wish I had my ‘real’ camera with me; one that dwarfs the clouds and the trees and the world and leaves you feeling a bit like an ant. An awe-inspired and happy ant, but an ant none-the-less. She looked away to splash in the waves and Oops! It was gone. “Maybe tomorrow,” she says. “Maybe…” I say and we still look ahead, afraid to look away lest we miss something else.
He lost the chance to get a treat last night. It doesn’t matter what he did or what the treat was, really. Just that it happened and that then it was gone. He tried to hide his hurt, to pretend like he didn’t care but as the darkness of bedtime began to wrap around him, I heard the sniffles. Cuddles helped but still he hurt. I know it’s necessary sometimes – this proving your point, following through, teaching consequences – but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Each tear tore at my heart. But I do believe it worked. Because today? Today he was full of kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. Some days I feel like maybe, just maybe, I’m at least getting a few things right.
I grab both sides and she grasps tighter. I pull her back and WOOSH she flies. Back and forth. Back and forth. “Adin, Mommy! Adin!” And I lean in for more. We go like this, over and over, until we both wear out. It’s not often that we find ourselves in this moment with no interruptions, no one else stealing the show or snatching my attention and it’s as neither of us really know how to tie it up and move it from now to memory. She looks up and smiles. Little teeth stretched out into a big smile and I grasp the moment and squeeze it tighter, ready for the back and forth, back and forth that is sure to come.
I look up just in time to see another adult warn him to be careful. He’s climbed up on top of the slide. Again. He’s been climbing since before he could walk, so I’m not surprised. Nor am I particularly worried about him climbing up there. He’s fallen before (and only been broken once). But I do suppose that it’s setting a bit of a bad example, so I call to him. “Hey, bud…get down, okay? There are lots of other kids here and we don’t want someone to get hurt.” And even as I say I feel like I’ve caved in to peer pressure. If that dad hadn’t spoken to him, I never would have said a word. I saw him. He was fine, not hurting anyone else. But…but…well, I get it. I do. And I really don’t mind that he said anything. He was genuinely concerned, I could tell. Which makes it even harder to be the parent at the playground who isn’t playing with her kids, who isn’t even watching them very well. And I feel this ridiculous need to make sure that everyone knows that I’ve been with them all day, giving them every ounce of my attention and now? Well, now they’re in an enclosed space created for children and I just need to sit and breathe and read and think and not be rightherewithyouallthetimeMommy. Why is it that no matter which way we choose to do things as parents, we always feel this need to justify our choice? It’s exhausting, really. Why is it that no matter how much we give, it never seems like enough? The push to do more, be more is hard to ignore.
We were the last ones to leave the playground. It was late, even for us. Not all that long ago, had I seen children out so late on a school night I would have rolled my eyes or at least given the disapproving glare. (I have to remind myself of that when I’m the recipient of such looks). But this is the freedom I love about our life as we are living it right now. Memories made in the yellow glow of streetlamps shine brighter than those made in the light of day. I’m not quite sure how that works, but I believe it’s true. These are the things that they’ll remember – the things that stray from the norm, the things we only do on vacation. Piling on the floor to watch a movie that started well after bed time. Ice cream for dinner. Skipping school to enjoy a beautiful day. (And learning even when they don’t realize it). Singing at the top of our lungs to cheesy songs that are, quite frankly, musically awful but full of all the things I want them to know, to believe, to live. I won’t control the radio for much longer. Or the late nights. Or their dinner choices. Or a million other things. So for now, while it’s my choice to make, I’m doing the best that I can (and today it feels like I’m doing just fine).