All at once

I’ve written before that parenthood has contained more surprises than I can count.  This is true.  There’s no question that the most startling thing for me is how loss is contained in being a mother.  I did not at all anticipate how bittersweet parenting would be.  Every single day makes me cry.  Every single day also makes me laugh, and smile, and ride waves of joy.  The oscillation between these two poles – and their occasional co-existence in a single moment – takes my breath away on a regular basis.

Another of motherhood’s big surprises for me is the number of thing that happened all at once.  There were many parts of childhood that I assumed would be gradual processes that were, instead, totally overnight events.  For example:

Walking.

Riding a bike.

Reading.

All of these things I figured would happen slowly, with fits and starts, in spurts.  Two steps forward, one step back style.  Instead, in all of those cases, it was basically binary.  One day Grace was rolling from one side of the kitchen to the other in her determination to get somewhere, the next she was standing wobbily next to the couch, holding on with two clutched fists, and the next she was off to the races.  The same with biking.  And with reading.

By the way, this works in reverse, too.  Some things I thought would be instantaneous – notably, feeling like I was a mother, and, frankly feeling like I was an adult – were instead gradual.

Time is playing its fast-slow-instant-slow motion tricks on me right now, too.  All at once I have a teenager.

Grace will be thirteen three weeks from today.  It’s such a cliche, but man, it’s also the true-est true thing: how is this possible?  She was a colicky newborn five seconds ago, and now she’s almost my height, wears bigger shoes than I do, and is turning into a young woman so fast my head is spinning.  There’s nothing gradual about this moment.  Even as I write that, I sense how ludicrous it is: after all I’ve hard thirteen years to prepare for having a thirteen year old.  Yet it happened when I blinked.  As Gretchen Rubin says, the days are long but the years are short.  Another true-est of the true adage.

Do you know what I mean?  Are some things that you thought would be slow in fact sudden, and vice versa?


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6 Comments

  1. Posted October 5, 2015 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Oh, yes. My baby crawling- and soon to be walking. My older child (4) being so confident climbing (monkey bars, etc) that I don’t even feel the need to stand anywhere near him. The fact that he can get his own milk from the fridge. And that he can use the word “earlier” in a sentence. Totally binary!

    admin Reply:

    xoxo

  2. Posted October 5, 2015 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I’m definitely with you there on the stuff I thought would be instantaneous being gradual instead. Eight years in and, many days, I still don’t feel like a mother. I notice that the imposter syndrome kicks in during extremes–very awful days (what the hell am I doing!?!?) and very awesome days (this is too easy–I’m a babysitter at best). Same with her and sleeping–still not a good sleeper. WHEN oh when will she sleep all the way through!?!? Too gradual! 🙂

    admin Reply:

    Good call – the sleeping through the night thing was definitely too gradual!

  3. Posted October 5, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Oh, yes. My Grace is a senior this year. I think everything happened while I was blinking. And don’t get me started on the tears/joy every day all the time thing. I feel like a walking sponge most days, soaking it all in and being all squeezed out.

    The years are very, very short indeed.

    admin Reply:

    Walking sponge. Exactly.

  4. Posted October 5, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Yes. To all above.
    I am glad I am not the only one experiencing the deep sadness and deepest joy of parenting in one day (or one moment).
    I am eight years into the journey and don’t really feel I know more than I did a few years back. But I am more at peace with not knowing, I call that a success.

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog and SO much of what you’ve written resonates with me.

  5. Kirsten
    Posted October 5, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    The most powerful paradigm shift I’ve had as an adult is wrapping my head around the Both/And of all things. The parenting process you describe so beautifully above is a precise illustration: it is both instantaneous AND ineffably gradual. All the movements and moments that led to the reading and bike riding are lost in the sands of time, so the suddenness of the new skill surprises us. Our daughters are BOTH child AND adult. Our boys are BOTH easy AND hard to comprehend. We have become mothers, AND we are still becoming mothers as those demands change. It makes me crazy, and yet reassured all at the same time. Both/And. I just love your posts because they so clearly and so consistently evoke gasps of recognition & identification.

    admin Reply:

    What a beautiful way to think about it. Yes. Absolutely.

  6. Me
    Posted October 5, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    There are things that I think are never going to happen in my life… like the process is at such a snailing speed that I may die before I ever see the end of it, or the fruits of the labour it has put me through.

    There are things that I feel have the biggest build up in history and then are over in the blink of an eye.

    I’m personally trying to participate more. I think that might slow down the good things and make the bad things more tolerable.

    admin Reply:

    Let me know if participating helps slow things down. xox