It’s crazy to me that I am so impacted by the moments with my daughters, yet they are unlikely to remember any of them. I don’t remember much about growing up. What I do remember may be memories, or may be memories of videotaped and talked about events. I don’t know why I don’t remember the details, but I don’t. It worries me about remembering things in the future. That’s partly why I write.
Today Toddler Grouch and I lay in bed, for the second or third night in a row, and practiced thinking up words that started with different letters.
“Buh, buh…banana! Your turn, Mom”.
“Buh, buh, beach”.
“Buh, buh, baby”.
“Buh, buh, bee”.
“Buh, buh…poop! Ahhhhh, I’m teasing you!”
As we played our little letter game, her eyes sparkled and her cheeks flushed. The getting it excited her. It might have excited me more to witness it. We lay in her little toddler bed, me squashed up against the side, knees bent so my feet didn’t hang off the end. The back of my head rested against the headboard and her head rested on my chest. We talked for about forty minutes and when I went to leave she said, “Don’t leave, Mom. I want to talk more”.
It’s just about impossible to not leave when your child says they want to talk to you. So we talked a little more, and the only thing that made me leave the room was wanting her to be rested in the morning. Finally I pulled myself away and gave her another smooch, told her I loved her and thanked her for talking with me.
I hopped in the shower and while I washed, I replayed our time in my head. Every single day I am amazed by the “ordinary”. I am enthralled by the beauty. I am astounded by the growth. I cannot believe I am fortunate to be a witness, to be involved in the process of helping guide my amazing little beings into amazing adult beings.
Already, when I picture my daughters, I picture a slideshow in my head. They are not one person, they are all of the versions of themselves they have been: a little newborn baby, a fledgling toddler starting to speak, starting to walk, a full-on almost-potty-trained toddler with a fondness for poop jokes. She is not one her, she is many hers. I think this is a pretty common parental feel.
When I was sixteen, my parents threw an enormous surprise party for me. I was not very grateful. I was embarrassed by the attention, I was embarrassed by the extravagant party that was thrown for what I felt was a completely insignificant event. I was embarrassed for the two friends my parents had invited to come celebrate with me, who were stuck hanging out with my family that they hardly knew. I was embarrassed because now they knew they were the two closest friends I had, even though we weren’t really all that close.
At one point in the party, my dad showed a surprise video. He had spent countless hours compiling video clips of me from birth to age sixteen, into a fifteen minute presentation. Knowing him, he probably spent hours and hours and hours on this. This was way before movie-maker existed. This was the ultimate videographic mix-tape. Instead of being pleased, I was pissed. Because I was mortified. I didn’t recognize myself in any of those images.
When I was sixteen, I was lost. I had forgotten who I was. I did not recognize the chubby infant slobbering all over. I did not recognize the obnoxious seven-year-old who was flipping out and acting like a complete fool, I did not recognize a self-confident twelve-year-old who danced in the living room and sang off-key while wearing gaudy clothing. That is not me, I thought. I don’t know if it was just my age, or my too-coolness, or my depression that sucked me and all of my positive traits down into an abyss, but whatever the reason, I didn’t know who I was. Even when I was seeing myself on tape. I didn’t connect with anything about that party, or anything in that video.
I think about that now, as I look at my daughters. How a parent doesn’t see a child only for who they are at that very instant, but they see them for who they’ve always been. They maybe even project a teensy bit to what their child might be like in the future. And how crazy it can be that in some ways, at some times, a parent can know their child even better than the child knows themselves.
Finally, as I am encroaching on forty, I think I found myself. I remember who I am. I am a slobbery fool. I am a confident adult. I dance in the living room and sing off-key. I still have no fashion sense. And, even though I have to fight for it now, I’m happy again.
My friends and I were talking today about how this is sort of how the cycle goes. You’re born with confidence, you’re born knowing who you are, you’re born ready to work your tail off to accomplish anything you set your mind to. This usually gets beaten out of you for awhile there, and you spend the rest of your life clawing your way out of the depressive, self-conscious, terrified person you somehow became. Some of us make it out, some of us don’t.
I suppose it doesn’t matter if my daughters remember playing the “buh, buh..B!” game with me or not. As long as they are able to navigate their way back to found if they ever find themselves lost.