Even though it's been over a year, it seems I'm not quite ready to give up this space. Often I compose little posts in my head, but then they slip away in the flurry of our days. After everyone has had their stories and snuggles and final glasses of water for the night, I sink into the couch with nothing much to say about the craziness and exhaustion and gratitude and wonder that fills my life.
But in this moment, I find myself in the unusual position of sitting on a cold, rooftop patio of a hotel in Luebeck, Germany, with only a laptop and a fiddly knitting project to keep me company. And since that knitting project has been knit and un-knit and re-knit far too many times to count, I've thrown down the needles and am passing these lazy hours by looking through old photographs and wondering at how quickly it all passes by.
The littlest is not so little. He's big in every way. He's loud and full of energy, with wide open smiles and a huge appetite for all that life has to offer an 18-month-old - which is mainly food and hugs and getting muddy while chasing after his brother and sister. I spend the whole day chasing this tornado and when I catch him, he throws his arms around me and nuzzles his head into my neck and yells mama. Life with a toddler is big. Certainly. Big love, big messes, big lessons, big frustrations, big changes - such beautiful will.
But life with a seven-year-old. Now that's big living. First grade is full of big firsts and she is soaking it up like a sponge - reading and math, music and languages and handwork, art in everything and joy in everything. But first grade is also full of big feelings and the complexity of it all takes my breath away sometimes. Simple interactions with friends can become complicated and fraught with emotions one moment and then calm and playful the next. Her brothers too can frustrate then delight. But most of all, her emotions crash into me and we dance this complicated mama-daughter dance of frustration and boundaries, disagreements and demands, nurturing and letting go. And sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the right thing at all, and sometimes I wonder if I'm too hard on her, and sometimes words fail me completely and I don't know what to say. And then there are these moments when she curls up into my lap, all long arms and legs and wild girl-child hair, and I rock her back and forth and love her endlessly and remember that seven is big, but still so little.
And then there is the middle one. He is the stillness between the two fiery siblings. He is complicated, sure. He is a mystery. He is deep waters, this boy. He is my heart twin; my heart has known his since the moment he was born. Sensitive, thoughtful, focused. He loves home and quiet, purposeful work. He is the champion of all things small. He lives in details. But he, too, is on the brink of that big six-year-old change and what it will look like is another mystery.
My hope with all of them is that I meet them where they are and that I know them for who they are. And that is a big task. That is the real work of parenting. And to know them is to learn more about myself in the process - my limits and failings, my own baggage - and to grow, sometimes painfully, in the process. That is the real gift of parenting. And where it all collides into this messy, crazy, loud, imperfect thing that is our life... well, there's real grace there. And for that, I am grateful every single day.
Which brings me back to this rooftop patio and this unfamiliar silence and the strange but welcome feeling of having nothing at all to do. This is supposed to be my little vacation, a few days to breathe and relax. And sometimes that's all it takes to see things clearly. And to know where you belong.