The little fingers – that’s what gets me first. A whole fist’s worth, grasping tightly to only half of my index finger, a silent whisper. “There you are, my mama! Don’t worry – I won’t lose you!” No longer connected through the sustenance of the umbilical cord, we learn a new connection – fingers to finger, heart to heart.
And then, before I even know it, we’re no longer finger-to-finger, but hand-to-hand, a transition necessitated by growth, both in size and independence. I cherish this time, holding a roving baby hand during a nursing session or relishing the fact that I can insist on holding my toddler’s hand because we’re in a parking lot.
But hand-in-hand leads quickly to freedom–the freedom of waves and pats on the back and thumbs-up and quick hugs, and before I know it, they’re big! What seemed at first like moments (or stages) that would be frozen in time prove fleeting in the rear view mirror.
Time. It passes so fast!
Some people celebrate with each page-turn of the calendar, but I’ve always been one to mourn the passage of time, especially when it comes to my kids. Oh, I’m happy to be able to tick the boxes for each developmental milestone, and what mother’s heart doesn’t practically burst when she sees the pride of a new accomplishment in her child’s eyes? But these always hit me in a tender area, landing with a thud, a reminder that these days will past–the hard parts and the very best parts all wrapped up together.
I started reading a book this week and stumbled across a quote that touched this very spot and helped me realize why my instinct is to hold tightly.
Sensing the ground shifting beneath my feet, I resisted this new, unknown territory, already nostalgic for what I’d so recently taken for granted. I missed my old world and its funny little inhabitants, those great big personalitites still housed in small, sweet bodies. I missed my sons’ kissable cheeks and round bellies, their unanswerable questions, their innocent faith, their sudden tears and wild, infectious giggles, even the smell of their morning breath, when they would leap, upon waking, from their own warm beds directly to ours. I missed the person I had been for them, too [emphasis added]–the younger, more capable mother who read aloud for hours, stuck raisin eyes into bear-shaped pancakes, created knight’s armor from cardboard and duct tape. Certainly, my talents didn’t seem quite so impressive anymore, my company not as desirable as it once had been. (Kenison 7-8)
This. This is it. I love the littlest years best because I know who I am in them, or at least I have a well-developed picture of who I want to be. I am engaged. I am besotted. I am physically and emotionally in step with my babies’ every needs. The further we go, the murkier it gets.
I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately. Who am I? Am I being that person? Or are my actions in opposition to who I am? Who do I want to be? Where do my identity and my desires align? Where do I want to be different?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I know as “finger-to-finger” inches closer to “freedom,” the answers include more question marks and hyphens. I am a mother-and-_____. What things will fill in that gap? Can I do those things well? Can I still do motherhood well and fill in those blanks? I don’t know. It’s certainly much more complicated. But womanhood and motherhood are not one in the same, and no one dimension could fully and forever encompass us.
Juggling questions marks and hyphens is hard work. The simplicity of being subsumed by only one dimension is inviting.
What follows your hyphens? Do you embrace growth or get stuck in the nostalgia of it?