Today is the first day of spring. I reminded my kids the instant they woke to the sun cresting over the forested mountain out their window. Ruby scaled the book cart to get a look. “No way, mama. I still see white stuff out there. Right in our garden.”
We talked about change and how it is usually pretty gradual. Not like a flash light flipping on, but like a campfire. It takes time to stack material, for one flame to ignite and then roll and rumble into the next flame.
Both of our kids are growing like bamboo. Ruby’s legs ache during the night; she says she can feel her bones moving. She moans while I rub essential oils down her shins in the early morning darkness. Her hunger is constant and she has days where she eats more than anyone in our home. Margot literally can’t get enough sleep; she slowly rolls into her days, decidedly undecided about waking up. She lost a front tooth and three more are wobbling their way out of the gums that were born smooth from my body.
Suffocated was the word Andy used last night when I attempted to finish a short story for the sixth time. I was one sentence in when Ruby shouted that she found a regurgitated mouse on our rug. Alice pawed at her water bowl. Margot leaned into me to untangle a necklace. Andy and I stared at each other with soft, tired eyes, about to laugh at the incessant NEED when our cat Sam began his meow alarm for dinner time.
Andy and I both agree: things feel nuts right now, in a way they never have. We are ungracefully trying to catch up to this new parenting phase of opinion and defiance and need. It feels like a jolt. Nothing gradual about it: the light is on, the season has changed. Time to get to work, sowing seeds. GO.
Our dear friend is in town. He is the kind of houseguest who infuses our home with care, love and ease. He cleans our home (he is sweeping right now), plays with our kids (he read 11 books to Ruby this morning and taught Margot how to practice back flips) and makes all our meals (last night: baked chicken, roasted root vegetables and salad). I joke that he can just live here and be our house husband. Except I’m not really joking. He laughs, knowing his next adventure calls. He just returned from Antarctica. Each night, I watch my daughters curl into his sides as he tells stories of endless sunshine and penguins.
Ben made baked oatmeal for breakfast this morning, the day Margot stumbled through molasses into waking. I considered hurrying her along but instead leaned into the beauty of this morning: a delicious breakfast finishing in the oven while my four year-old daughter stood on a chair and fired questions at Ben about glaciers and my six year-old daughter pressed her sleepy cheek into my collar bone, breathing a heavy newborn breath. I decided we’d take this morning as it was coming at us: with grace.
I notice these kinds of cues from my kids. I choose not to start our days by rushing out the door. I choose not to do this because I have done it – on many occasions – and it always ends badly. Usually with me apologizing for raising my voice while hugging my kid who is frustrated from my impatience and crummy listening skills. Everyone is grumpy and flustered. It’s a bad way to start our day. Actually, in my opinion, there is no reason, for my two little girls to begin their days that way.
Usually, mostly, the two things line up: we gently begin our day and we make it to school before the bell. But, we are sometimes “late” to school. Although, after much thought on the matter, I define our arrival time differently, because it is a thoughtful choice. I am ok with letting my kids sleep, with biking slowly when the conversation is rich, with stopping to look at bobcat tracks in the snow, with witnessing my daughters joyfully play baby deers in the hallway, with enjoying a houseguest’s company over breakfast. I believe those lessons are life’s most important and I don’t want to interrupt them. And, yes, I know my choice isn’t mainstream in the public education sphere. I am thankful for a teacher who appreciates our values.
We are always right on time.
Margot and I biked to school, happy and chatty. She smiled into the cold air as her strong little legs pedaled up hill. She loves biking to school. She talked about her excitement for gym that day and for a play date after school. We were just a little late but we’d missed her class’s group photograph. In the whole school, her class was photographed first. We’d just missed it, we learned. My heart sank into my guts. You are the adult. You messed up. I scolded myself, feeling a flush of hot embarrassment and guilt.
Margot didn’t mind even a little bit but I couldn’t shake it. I went to the gym and asked the photo people about a retake next to a giant sign that read NO RETAKES. They honored the sign’s words and I walked out, honoring my coordinates in the time continuum.
That’s it, I thought as I biked home. My confidence, my ownership in our morning story pumping back into my bones as I pedaled. Every single moment of every single day we are choosing our approach, our path, our perspective, our attitude. We have to own what we pick. We have to pick, knowing we own it.
I rolled into our driveway, deciding to shift my feeling from disappointment to relief regarding no retakes. We just move forward from this place. In our day, in our parenting.
Today, on this first day of spring, I notice the tilt of the light, the nudge toward warmer days. My seeds are here and the snow in my garden softens into the earth. Soon, we will have mud. It will be messy and gloriously something other than what we have now. Our plot is different than it was last year at this time: we now have two gardening seasons under our belts in this space. We know more. But we don’t yet know this season. This one is all shiny and new.