Monday, May 25, 2009

Growing Pains

May is such a BIG month: invariably, it is filled with last-days-of, year-ends, graduations, teacher thank yous, recitals, shows, parties. Last week we went to a 'graduation' from 3 year old preschool, this Friday is Last Day of Kindergarten, and Saturday will be the Dance Extravaganza for the ballet/tap class.

I generally sail through The Big Moments dry-eyed: the first steps, the first day at school, riding a bike without training wheels. All of these have arrived with great joy, huge amounts of mama pride, but nary a tear. Not that getting a bit weepy would be the wrong response. Only, for me, those milestones feel so much a part of the Big Picture. They are but one moment in a lifetime of many huge moments to come, and in those instances of triumph or independence I can rejoice in their progress and celebrate - for them, for me.

For me, the tears come in the quietest of moments.

Tonight I was alone in the kitchen, putting away dishtowels. The space I needed was taken up by a stack of Annika's bibs: some inherited from the big kids, some given to her 'fresh & clean'. I fingered the stack, recalling an earlier conversation with Torbjorn that reflected Annika's violent and noisy distaste for all protective gear except one very specific lightweight model. (Luckily, it's cute.) It was time for the rest to go. And I couldn't make my fingers pick them up.

I touched the bright pink flowered bib, that Cecilie wore every meal for her entire 2nd year. And 3rd. Oh, and 4th. The one she'll still dig out if she's got an especially fancy outfit on - or her school uniform. Then I spied a little yellow cowboy printed bib that was Lars'. Oh oh oh, did the waterworks kick into high gear.

To me, this bandanna-edged bib holds all the moments that have slipped through my fingers faster than a wet naked toddler. This was my tiny boy that I can barely remember as a baby. This was my little man who made a holy mess on the floor at every meal. I have the most distinct memory of taking the cowboy bib off him, knowing he'd never wear it again. (The shrieking and tearing at the Velcro may have been my clue.)

This bib is all of the endless meals served to babies day after day, the daily routine of nourishment that a mom undertakes and doesn't register, and then all of the sudden she's done. Done with the tiny feeder spoon doing 'the airplane', done with pureeing 6 vegetables together for maximum vitamin efficiency, done with needing 46 bibs in the drawer.

Just like that, there is no more baby. There is a toddler who gets a sandwich along with the rest of them, there is a four year old boy who races his dad to eat the most spinach, there is an almost-first-grader pouring her own cereal quite happily.

I'll go ahead and admit I let the tears roll down my face for a good few minutes, till I was a great big runny-nosed mess.

These are the unique sort of tears neither happy or sad, but somehow your heart's marking of your passage through another stage of life. I remember tears like this when I drove away from a college boyfriend who was the loveliest, funniest person in my world, and I knew I was done with that time. There were tears like this, in fact, when I left England. Maybe one's heart gets growing pains too, even when it knows the next size up will be just as good, maybe better.

Tonight, my heart had growing pains.

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