In an apparent act of Houdini sorcery, my daughter has turned seventeen months old. Time has fluttered past us, beaten forward by the gossamer wings of moths we cannot touch. I see her everyday of my life, so taking note of the incremental changes in her features, slips by. It is only when I look through photographs of days gone that I can fully grasp just how much Lucy has transformed. I took this picture, the one you see here, this past weekend at our Mommy & Me dance class. After the songs and dancing, there's "free time" to play in the gym space. She always makes a beeline for the balance beam. Because she's still getting the hang of keeping her balance on the foam beam as she puts one tiny foot in front of the other, she inevitably reaches for my hand. And I hold it gently, never the first to let go.
Many times throughout the course of a day, Lucy will reach for my hand or she'll raise her arms up towards me, her head tipped back and plead, "up." I know, I know, I've seen the poem immortalized in needlepoint, the one about how babies don't keep, and the housework can wait until the next day, and so on and so forth. And sure, this could easily turn into a Huff Post worthy piece about how in those precious and fleeting scraps of minutes I drop everything that I'm doing and lift my daughter into my arms - but it's not. That wouldn't be honest, that would be too perfectly scripted. The problem with the needlepoint scripture is that it's not practical. Once in a while perhaps, but not on a daily basis.
My version of reality with Lucy involves scrambling to get dinner made while trying to keep her occupied so she doesn't melt down because I can't pick her up. We have a Learning Tower, and she's got her own kitchen tools to play with, but that only lasts for so long. My version of life involves getting the sink full of dishes washed on a Sunday afternoon because if I don't, they will be there the next day - Monday. A work day. A day with drastically limited time in which to make dinner, let alone clean up what had not gotten done over the weekend. Sure the dishes could sit, and I could oblige my daughter's appeals to pick her up, but as certain as Murphy's Law, we'd tumble through the door Monday afternoon, and between requests for milk or crackers or crayons or books, I'd need to make dinner, and inevitably, the tools I'd need to make dinner would be dirty in the sink. It never fails.
Instead of the made-for-TV version of life, this is how our Sunday unfolded: after a lovely morning spent at the Children's Museum, while the babe took her afternoon nap, I made dinner. In the short 30 minutes that was left of her sleep, once I'd gotten everything into the pot, I chose to rest myself. Once she was up, it was teetering on bedlam as I attempted to clean the kitchen, and get her lunches ready for the week. Why not wait until after she goes to bed you may ask? Because I'm beat by then. EXHAUSTED. Because once she's asleep, that's my time, time I have with Big Red to catch up, time I have to watch something useless on television, time to think for myself. To just breathe without interruption. If I'd have dropped everything until after she went to bed, it would have left me, once everything was finished, a paltry half hour before it was time for my own date with the Sandman.
I'm not interested in wishing away my daughter's childhood. No way. Of course I look forward to her independence, but I'm also painfully aware that one day she won't grab my hand. She'll no longer reach up and asked to be lifted into my arms. It's the ceaseless contradiction of Motherhood. You are constantly at odds with a desire to fast-forward time, and yet desperate to stop it altogether for fear of missing something and never getting that moment back again. It's cruel and unfair. My kid walks the foam balance beam every weekend, but so do I - mine is the big girl version, the proverbial plank of timber I'm nearly falling off with every step forward. So I compromise. I give her attention, then I get back to the kitchen. She asks for me, requests things of me, and I attempt to explain that I'm busy. Sometimes she whines, sometimes she finds something else to do.
Sometimes there's just too much to do, too much that stretches my toddler's nearly complete inability to be patient, so I take breaks to chase her around, snatching her up, blowing raspberries into her belly, and reveling in the marvelous music of her laughter. Momentarily, I pause the cadence of the wings on those moths. And then I get back to the dishes.