Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My big girl, my saving grace

I’m learning that it’s one thing to decide on where to plant our roots next, but it’s quite another to actually do the work to get there. Until I had the unknowns somewhat known, like the cost of the move, when to move, what to move, and even how to move (furnished apartment or unfurnished apartment while house-hunting? Where will our stuff go then?) I couldn’t rest.

And that’s how I spent all of last week with my nose buried in my computer. Because of our unfamiliarity with Austin, my research about the area had to start from scratch. From the moment the alarm sounded at 5AM, I planted myself at my desk, absorbed in some kind of information about our future life. When the girls rose from bed, I got them ready for school, and after they left with their dad, I would make a bee line back to the computer.

I didn’t put away the dishes from breakfast, I didn’t make the bed, I didn’t put away the laundry that was folded, one, then two, then three, then four nights ago. More like I couldn’t. I was obsessed with shaping the details of our move so I could at least envision how it would all play out, because otherwise, I felt we were in limbo, neither here nor there.

Naturally, I was also exhausted and out of sorts last week. And perhaps that’s what inspired Little Miss to surprise me with this:

After we arrived home from school pickup in the evening, the phone rang. Another mover, another price quote, another half an hour of Q&A on the phone. Pickle busied herself around me, but she didn’t leave my side, occasionally calling out, “Mommy, mommy,” when irked that I was still talking to someone who wasn’t her. All this time, I was at my desk, in my bedroom, and Little Miss was nowhere in my sight.

I was finally off the phone when she came in with a secretive smile: “Come here, mommy, I have something to show you.”

She led me into the living room, and announced, “Ta da!” I stared at my house, agape. It was pretty near spotless. The toys that were strewn about – that I was too distracted to pick up in the last couple of days – were gone from sight, stacked neatly back in their respective spots. The dining table was cleared from our breakfast that morning, and the coats in the dining room were put away. She led me downstairs to her bedroom and the family room (also their play area), and again, I was stunned. The place was immaculate.

She trembled with excitement and said, “I even made the bed!”

I couldn’t believe it. I was so moved by her gesture, I just held her close and thanked her, over and over again with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this girl, who has saved me, yet again.

Since our world was suddenly turned upside down when our landlady called and said we had to leave our beloved apartment, Little Miss had surprised me twice with her five-year-old wisdom to say or do exactly that which lifted me out of a very dark place.

First, she had been the one to remind me that it was okay to make this change because it meant we could finally take this opportunity to make our dreams come true, and we are, by moving to an entirely new region of the country to explore—something My Guy and I have always wanted to do since we met—and by buying our first home together.

And now, by tidying our place, she had removed the clutter that also contributed to the frenzy inside my head. So much to do, so much to think about, and I felt completely encumbered by the clutter that leached energy from me, making it that much harder for me to accomplish anything. Maybe she knew how mess affected me, maybe she just wanted to help, seeing how frazzled I was, and did so in the only way she knew how. But her uncanny ability to hone in on exactly the thing that comforted me told me we were going to be okay. 

It also reminded me that there are many up sides to children getting older. I had always lamented the fact that soon, my girls will no longer be babies, that they were leaving their infancy, and soon, toddlerhood behind, and I would miss the chubby thighs, funny pronunciations, and caricatures of themselves when they’re at the early stages of forming who they would someday become. 

When I hold Pickle these days, who’s also rapidly moving away from the toddler stage, I also want to preserve her in this way inside my arms forever, each time wishing desperately that time would slow because I just wasn’t ready to let go of my baby.

 

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But by leaving her tumultuous three and fearsome four behind, Little Miss is slowly proving to me that there is so much more to look forward to as my girls age. I relish the afternoons when I get to read with Little Miss while Pickle naps. I would climb into bed next to my big girl, and though absorbed in her book, she would look up to exchange a smile before going back to her adventure. We would be wordless and content, each in our own world, but blissfully together, at the same time.

These are the moments that will save me in these few weeks when I am most in need of some grounding. As exciting as our future seems, I admit that it’s unnerving to feel uprooted from a city I’ve called my home for the last 16 years, but my five-year-old is unfazed. I understand that she may not have the ability to fully grasp the consequence of moving, of leaving all that she’s ever known behind, but each time she’s asked how she feels about leaving Chicago for Austin, she would answer, “I can’t wait to experience my new life.”

There is much I can learn from her.

I can also learn to not be scared and saddened by my children getting older because that means not having to wipe another butt again, not having to supervise play dates every moment the kids are together, and not having to structure every hour of their time with me at home because they’d be fully capable of entertaining themselves. Many times, I’ve caught Little Miss in some corner of our house, poring through books on her own, perfectly happy to just be still by herself, and I would stare in wonder.

So this is what it feels like…

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I also love being able to have real conversations with her, where we share unsugarcoated feelings and talk about the things that scare and excite us. It is our pillow talk, both our heads facing each other on one pillow right before bedtime, when her beautiful face is illuminated by the bedside lamp and sometimes by her fervor for an untold future. Even with over thirty years between us, I feel she sometimes understands me more than I realize. It’s moments like these that tell me it’s okay that my girls are leaving their babyhood behind.

Because, already, at five, Little Miss is showing me that what we have ahead of us can be so much more. 

 

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