It’s Saturday morning, and Dan and I are drinking coffee and playing Scrabble. The kids are on the couch, reading. When I ask them to please wash their breakfast dishes, they shuffle to the sink, minds sealed off against the interloping world, lasered onto their respective books.
It’s like a fantasy novel I might have written five years ago, “Angels visited the house and the children began reading and washing dishes.” Dan no longer needs to sing his version of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” when confronted with the rising tide of dishes in the sink. (Although, he still does, out of habit.) And, to be perfectly honest, dish-washing is an emerging skill. I say this to you warningly, lest you find yourself at our house eating off a mangy plate.
Later, we watch YouTube videos. The kids introduce me to Taylor Swift, and I introduce them to decades of music they’ve missed. We play Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime,” and the kids are fascinated with David Byrne, the antithesis of their flashy, dancing, sculpted young ladies. I am struck by the lyrics, everything seems poignant, pointing to a bigger truth.
“Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down/Letting the days go by/water flowing underground.”
I look at these sweet, summer-grubby faces; I can see all the days that have already gone by. We’ve had so many endings already. It’s like the theme song of childhood, the soundtrack that plays predictably as you weep over old board books and the creepy baby teeth staring at you from a small dish on your bookshelf. (No joke. Why am I saving these?) My hope is to let the days go by gracefully, letting the water flow, not hold me down.
Parenthood is like going through your file cabinets every few years and realizing that half the documents are irrelevant. Wait – when did they stop needing the bedtime lullaby, the one once seared into my brain?
These children are the daily reminder that everything is in flux, that signing on the dotted line of parenthood is like entering the Get With the Warp Speed Program of Impermanence. The fine print reads: Be prepared to accommodate the next stage, details unknown. Start the deep breathing practice now.
“And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?”
Rose and I watched a series of videos from the kids’ early childhood recently. So much singing! So much nudity! And hints of who they’d someday become. In one video, Rose and Col are dancing in 10 pounds of jewelry and nothing else, twirling umbrellas over their head. Rose, age 4, stops dancing, grabs her older brother’s sagging, half-open umbrella and with a quick wrist-flick extends it fully and hands it back to him. Col is obviously, joyfully anchored in the present moment, while Rose’s radar is trained on every particle of her surroundings. Still true.
“Same as it ever was/Same as it ever was/Same as it ever was ...”
And yet, everything changes. I feel the truth of these words like a limb I can’t remove from my body. Things are lost, things are gained. Col and Rose no longer need the nighttime lullaby because bedtime is no longer bedtime: When I flip off their bedroom light, the headlamps go on, their reading just commencing. What becomes obsolete clears space for what’s next. I’m like one of those Russian nesting dolls: If you remove the outside, nostalgically wistful shell of me, the next layer is like, “You amazing children! What’s next?” Like a tree, these children have their own growth rings, each ripe, rich stage solidified as the next one pushes forward. There is nothing to do but stay awake, ready to celebrate the next transformation.
“Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.
Time isn’t holding us
Time isn’t after us.”
Reach Rachel Turiel at email@example.com. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.