by Ann Faison
As soon as I had Grace, eleven years ago now, I started hearing this advice that I would keep hearing for a long time before I really understood it. That’s the trouble with being a parent. My perspective is always changing and shedding light on all that has already passed. Sometimes I wish I could have parented her when she was little from the perspective I have now, but that wouldn’t work. Perspective changes everything constantly. It’s this valuable commodity that is only earned as we go through. Rarely do we get to go back and redo or relearn with the advantage of our experience, hence the advice given to new parents from seasoned ones every day.
“It goes fast.”
What they are trying to do is encourage you to “enjoy every minute” which sounds good but is perplexing to someone who is just trying to get a grip on how to manage their new life as a parent. It takes years, really, to get the hang of it and even as you watch your baby transform day to day, you really cannot understand just how fast it really goes until you wake up one day and your baby is turning eleven.
It is really fun being a parent. I think that part gets lost on those on the other side of it. It doesn’t look nearly as fun as it is. It is also exhausting and sometimes excruciating, but the hard truth is a line from a Joni Mitchel song: Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day.
Watching Grace celebrate her birthday by having a sleepover with her friends brought back that urgency I once felt about growing up. I was in a hurry, just as she is. They were busy painting nails and experimenting with make up. As her mother I wish she’d slow down a little and let me relish the changes as they come instead of being jolted by them. The bumps erupting on her skin, the thickening around her middle, the look of disdain she has mastered all seem unreal. How is this tall gangly person my child? The part that is exciting to watch is how she and her friends are starting to really depend on each other. They’re not just playmates anymore. They support each other in ways that I no longer can, simply because I am not eleven.
I will be fifty this year and that number really bifurcates existence. I can no longer deny that I am over the hill. Sure I can still do more with my life and I will. But the rising part, the constant gaining is over now. From here, it’s all about holding on.
My father turns 90 this year. I am sure he would agree that every day something’s lost but I wonder if he feels there is still any gain. Watching the grand children rise and getting closer to death are both something. Maybe he still marvels at his own children’s triumphs and blunders. Or maybe, even as life closes down, there is still more to learn.