As much as it pains me to say it, my children are growing up.
We moved to New York City in the middle of their toddlerhoods; Diapered, teething and wide-eyed. Zoe had barely begun to walk, yet knew her way around our building well enough to take an elevator ride by herself (leaving me a horrified mess). Jack rode his scooter all the way to his pre-preschool and back while I huffed along behind him with Zoe tied securely onto me. I feared the dirty, bustling streets that pay no mind to babies crossing. It’s as if every person on their morning commute walks with horse blinders on, and I must constantly keep my brood in a strict formation.
I was still green behind the ears as a New Yorker, and as their mother.
Two years have passed and I can see their ankles showing under the cuffs of jeans and the knobby parts of their wrists bare from the sweaters that no longer fit them. Beyond their strikingly big-kid physical appearances, their demeanor and emotions have matured the most. We’re doing amazing things together like math, reading (yes!), ballet and soccer. We talk through their feelings as much as possible, and that is when I realize they are growing up far to quickly for me. I don’t feel like I’m ready to be a parent to KIDS already.
Mothering toddlers and babies is easy. We feed, clothe, bathe and mend our little ones as best as we know how, most of which is instilled in us innately. We wipe their tears when they fall, and champion them every step of the way. We make sure they get their turn on the swing sets and that they receive the exact balloon that they want because we know their favorite color.
These things came naturally to me. Their needs were mostly easily met, as there really wasn’t any grey area surrounding them. As my children get older, though, their needs are changing in ways that I can’t easily fix and it just nearly destroys me. Jack struggles with asserting himself in situations when the more aggressive children take over, and gets heavily upset when he can’t communicate what he needs and subsequently doesn’t get it. He goes to bed after fighting with his sister over anything and everything, and wakes up with the stress of a thousand planets resting on his shoulders. I see the worry and tension in his eyes and the furrows of his brow, yet I can’t do anything to help him, and it destroys me… It literally obliterates me into a thousand tiny particles that, while I don’t let him see it, he must recognize the fact that I’m scrambling to put myself together and find The Answer immediately.
Outside influences are making their way into my well protected parent bubble as well, and it’s caught me completley off guard more than one time. Two days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we were walking in the West Village and Jack pointed up to a building and said “Look momma, that’s where the plane hit the building and caught on fire and hurt lots of people”. I stopped dead in my tracks and casually asked where he had heard that story (because I certainly hadn’t told them). It didn’t matter, he is far too young to understand the gravity of the devastation of 9/11-which is precisely why I hadn’t ever told them that story. I felt completely robbed of a little part of his innocence that moment, and then realized that this was the first of many, many times this will happen in the future.
There are lessons that I want to teach my children but I’m unsure of the right way to go about it, mostly because I feel as though I’m still learning them myself. I suppose much of what I want to instill in them is happening without me really knowing or trying, just by being. This transition into a new phase of our lives and parenthood is normal and natural, and while I’m embracing so much of what is happening with them, I find myself feeling insecure about the inevitable process.
Before I know it, they’ll both be out from under my wings, and just like I learned to face this tough city and leave my small town inner self piled under layers of experience, I’ll learn to be the parent I know that I can be, and ultimately am. I guess this is the part of parenthood that I failed to see coming: The scrambling for answers and fleeing moments that so easily disappear in a compromised second.