Thursday, August 27, 2009

That Choking Feeling

I just choked up watching a Walmart commercial. No, not concerning its business ethics. That’s more of a furious, passionate emotion that rises in me; the content of the commercial itself brought my mind fast-forward a couple years: "back to school." As in, Ruth will be 5 years old in two years and 6 months. I am told that time will fly between this moment and that fall when she is ready for formal education. If we send her to a public or private school, she will be there without me. Why does it hurt to think about that? Why does it seem like such a brave thing for a 5 year old? It’s too much.
The voice-over in the commercial talked about not being able to hold her hand while she’s on the bus … and then some junk about at least being able to save money, but again, the content is what got me.
My sister and my sister-in-law both have five year olds that are headed to kindergarten. My niece is anticipating her first day next Monday and my nephew already had a successful first day. I’m very happy for them and I know they will both be successful kindergartners. But they aren’t my children; my heart isn’t breaking! It’s a bit achy, just because I do remember them as babies and how sweet they were.
I’ll chase a rabbit down a trail for a moment and share one vivid memory I have of each child.
My memory of Alyssa is the most vivid; it involves all of my senses. My sister Anna and her husband, Matt, were renting a duplex in Columbus. I believe my other sister, Becky, was renting the adjacent side, so it was very easy to get my “sister” fix to visit both of them in one place! Alyssa was a little over one year old, and she was playing with a plastic toy with wheels in the front yard and feeling the grass with her fingers. She was so beautiful, and we were so excited about her discovery of the grass. It was all so new to her! The grass was very green, as it was spring time, and the air was very clean-smelling that day.
Joshua has always just touched my heart. I can just close my eyes and hear his contagious giggle and see his perfect blue eyes. Just this past week, he caught a moth in some clear plastic cups that the kids were playing with in the pool. Can you picture the patience and skill that takes for a five year old? When he was a baby, he was always so happy. It was such a joy for all of us to lavish our attention on him because he was the only baby for awhile there!
Back to that choking feeling I felt as I watched that commercial: It’s just completely unimaginable to me that Ruth would be without me, for five days a week, for a couple hours?!
That’s all it is; unimaginable. I’m not saying I’m unwilling. I’m not saying I don’t trust the foundation of discipline and love that we have been building since her infancy through this completely trying and unnerving trial called “I’m two and have a new baby sister.” We are deliberating what education would best fit Ruth: public, private, homeschool? I won’t homeschool simply because I can’t imagine life without her.
Parenting is really about what’s best for your children. That’s my job … to bond with and get to know both of my children, and find ways to nurture all the potential that is inside of them. And they both will need different things to become the individuals that they are. In some ways, they will fulfill or surpass any expectations that I might dream of. They will probably be interested in some of the things that Matt and I are interested in. They will value many of the things that we value. But they will also have interests that I would have never thought possible (from a child of mine?!) And they may value things I never would have thought valuable. But if they become who they are, then we will have parented well.
Why didn’t anybody tell me that being a parent would be so horribly emotional?
That I would be mostly incompetent? Or feel that way when I can’t figure out how to best handle Ruth’s “twoness” or even Sophia’s needs as a baby?
That it would take every ounce of creative energy I have, and that it would not be about me at all, but that it’s beyond me?
That it would force me to grow and mature in ways I never would have conceived possible?
That my life as a parent looks totally different than I ever would have imagined it?