I am all too aware of the inevitabilities of aging. I’m not talking about the lines that are at first paper thin and then later, like grooves in the yard, revealing the preferred trudging path. Or the shift in color, my morning, pre-shower and make-up face erring on the side of sallow as opposed to pale. Those passages I am, if not entirely at peace with, at least prepared for and managing.
The inevitabilities that are currently weighing heaviest on my heart are of a different measure of time. My memories are laced with mint scented walks to school, little hand-written notes accompanying snacks waiting for the latch-key Amanda and elaborate shrubbery fortresses for Star Wars figures. There were t-ball games and vacations, birthday parties and bus rides downtown. They all merge in my mind to create one sort of meandering, yet cohesive sense of a childhood.
I do not remember the orchestration of events or the balance of wanting and getting, needing and yearning. Now, as I live those same years on the other side of the reflection, I am daunted. It occurred to me that there is no when, no when there is enough time, when we have the money, when we get the swing of it.
There is simply now, followed excruciatingly swiftly by what they remember. As I wince from the near-misses and barely-there’s I am in the midst of the creation of their memories. Three little girls collating and cataloging the entirety of their youth in each of these days.
We are month past the first day of kindergarten, one field trip down, a first invitation just received and school pictures ushering in potlucks and PTA. This is not even touching on the songs being learned and the lush toddler dimples and folds that are growing ever more distant.
I had been thinking that I would know, that like the grace I thought I’d acquire as a woman and the growing out of breakouts and moodiness, there would be this discovery of lightness and ease that would guide me into enrolling the girls in dance, conquering the play date code of conduct. I would slip free of the cloak of less-thanness.
I would feel comfortable, proud and accomplished. I wouldn’t walk away from tucking the girls in and fight a lump in my throat as they whispered, “And soon, I’ll do the ballerina class? Right, mama?” and “Tomorrow night will you be able to cuddle with me?” Instead I still end each day thinking I have not measured up, whether for time, money or attention.
I know it isn’t the classes or the perfect packed lunches that will be their memory, it will be unpredictable threads in between, the time we drove a little longer just to hear the last song, or the way we let them hold the ketchup themselves in a restaurant. I risk, each time I strive for perfection, missing that thing that is perfect to them.
I get now, that it is this moment, this very moment that is the most important. I may never get them into dance or to the circus, but what I can do, and what I absolutely must do, is give them this moment in the truest most present way that I can, because it’s not my idea of perfect that matters.