Lots of realizations this week:
Mama and I have been parents longer than we were together alone--ten years of each now, more if you count pregnancy, which is kinda limbo.
And then, if you count them separately, we've been parenting for 20 years!
I'm a better person for having kids, in all ways . . . except physically, I suppose. But as much as that dominates, I wouldn't change a thing. Seriously. Children are like egg to a stock: clarifying. Priorities. Values. Desires. Strengths. Weaknesses. I've never been so aware of my faults, but, if honest, I can see what I'm good at, too; on a good day, I try accept both with equanimity, and try to extend it to everyone. I spend so much time pondering big and little questions, that I have more answers, but more questions, than I ever did. I'm more connected to everything and everyone around me and see a much bigger picture. I don't think this is just a result of age, but perhaps of having more in common with all the parents out there. Of course, I'm more sensitive and vulnerable with all of this awareness of connection. I think I enjoy happiness more but suffer through disappointments and sadnesses a little more tenderly. Who was it who said that having children is like having a giant open wound? (It wasn't this piece, which I like. Motherhood definitely makes me more sentimental and nostalgic. Corny would be the word.) I worry about death--my own, theirs, anybody's, more than I was ever conscious of mortality before. Maybe that's what draws me to hospice. Motherhood takes me so much out of myself, but at the same time, has me thinking about my thoughts and actions all the time; it's an odd combination of altruism and narcissism. Same with the kids. I think more about everyone's kids, and everyone as a child, but at the end of it, it is only my children . . . .
And despite all of the stress and work children are, which can wear on the connection between their parents, Mama and I are a stronger, better couple now. Sure, we don't do as much alone or talk together of many other things besides the kids or family matters, but our sense of love, our knowledge of our strengths and weakness, our support of such, and our respect for each other has grown enormously because we are tried and challenged (and tired), together and individually, everyday in ways that wouldn't have happened. And we know enough to recognize that and appreciate it.
It's good to remember this now--a decade in, two digits--because everyone keeps telling me how much adolescence messes with both the adolescents and their parents. The emotions are so powerful and overwhelming as they leave behind aspects of childhood and are confused and saddened by it, as are we. But just as she walks away to the bus for camp without looking back, she comes home and hugs on her beloved stuffed bunny Amy; it's the limbo between childhood and adulthood. I see it already, would delay it if I could, though probably not really because I know it's necessary. And I take it so personally, already feel a little left behind alone, which is not the way to go. Good thing we have some time before it's full blown.
There are good things, too. They understand more, appreciate more, do more, know more. They are old enough to try things we like to do, like travel, eating out, going to Broadway, reading certain books and see certain films--we can share more of ourselves with them now; let's face it, babies and toddlers and preschoolers are rather limited that way (fun in others, of course, but infanthood was not ever my favorite part.) Now, they remember the stories we tell and the things we do. And they like some of it! Which, of course, is a way of their getting to know and remember us, some kind of salve against the inevitable.
Of course, the new stories, activities, skills, experiences go both ways. They expand our world just as they deepen our appreciation of it. Ice skating, horses, kung fu, Legos, video games, violin, piano, cello, sushi, sci-fi/fantasy (yes, as much as we raised them to be geeks, they push us further into it with their own obsessions)--I can go on and on. There is an essay about being friends with your children, one of many on either side of the debate, by Mama Eve, that notes, "I try to be an example of the friend I want my children to be to others, and also of the kind of person I want my children to be friends with." The exciting bit about tweendom and adolescence, with all of its downs, is the upside of getting to know them better as they get to know themselves. If the last ten years are anything to go on, the next ten years are going to be amazing, though I'll admit to some bias.
All of which is a rambling (and corny) way of saying "happy birthday" to Sis and Bud and that we are so grateful and blessed to have you.