The ground beneath me is moving in ways that surprise me. It’s like I have one contact in and one out; some things are in perfect focus while others force me to squint and rub my eye. The hardest thing is knowing when it’s meant to be blurry.
Am I crying?
Where is the bird’s eye view I’ve come to expect?
I long to have my response be smooth and natural, but it’s more like a violent lurch and stumble. When I manage to back off I worry that it’s motivated more by fatigue and irritability than genuine awareness that I ought to give the girls space. Then when I stay close it nags at me that I’m creating an unnatural tether that keeps them from moving toward new things.
The first day back to school was a study in spacing. It was the first time that Avery would ride the bigger kid bus with Briar, leaving Finley home for another hour and then off to ride the younger kid bus alone. Briar and Avery wanted us all to walk to the bus together, but then they didn’t want us to stand and watch right at the stop. Actually, that was Sean; he thought we should stand back a bit.
Last year Briar had figured out how to get out the door on time, alone. I remember being shocked, I hadn’t been ready to have someone else decide how I would or wouldn’t participate in something. This year Ave was uncharacteristically tentative, yet she didn’t want help. She wanted to steep in the newness and figure it out herself. Finley floated between us all, moving in tight with her sisters and then away, a new independence and sense of identity overshadowing any nerves about riding alone or being left behind.
I’d been preparing for each of the girls to be at a different school this year, but there was a primal flinch. My instinct was to fight the scattering, gather them all back up in one tidy cluster. The bus drove away and as I slowly turned, I saw that Fin was halfway home. I marveled at how the four of them seemed to understand where they belonged. Sean took my hand and we walked.
“This is nice,” he said softly.
I paused. Was it?
I loved holding his hand and watching Finley skip happily ahead. Behind us I knew both girls were excited about the new schools waiting at the end of the bus route.
Is it ok to feel happy that they are moving toward needing me less? Should I not have this sadness that I’m not needed? Or that the focus is shifting? What about the frustration when I am needed?
We walked up to the house and poured ourselves a second cup of coffee. I took mine upstairs to do my hair. I had 45 free minutes. I stared at my reflection in the mirror, surveyed the countertop with its tubs and tubes of skin potions. They aren’t mine; the girls have started asking about break outs. I told them I’d buy things they could use if they needed them. They’ve been washing their faces each night, earnest about this emerging need for self-care. My own creams and toners sit untouched.
As the girls become undeniably closer to teenagers than little girls I feel my age more. How can the butterflies of my own back-to-school memories seem so recent, yet the reflection in the mirror such a far cry from who I was? Friends talk about kids getting bigger and free time opening up in new ways.
Then they talk about how it actually gets harder. Sure, you’re not tying your kids’ shoes but you have new, more perilous responsibilities. I flirt with clinging to their stories of how it changes, taking the words as a soothing and literal description of what comes next. That’s no better than borrowing someone else’s glasses. It’s different for all of us.
It really does feel as if my vision is constantly struggling to adapt to the proximity of everything, or the distance, and to understand which way I am going.
Maybe it’s really my heart. I can’t get it to focus as it flutters between fearing loss and yearning to help everyone take flight.
How about you? Do things get blurry from time to time?