“when a child first catches adults out—when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just—his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone…And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.” East of Eden, Steinbeck
I was scrolling through Matt’s photo library on his phone the other day and came across a picture of Evelyn and Theo. What’s strangest is that Evelyn was bent over forward, her face not even showing, and yet at first glance I thought it was me. It’s odd, seeing your child really, actually resemble you. And it’s obviously in more than just physical looks, there was something about her, maybe her posture, her movement, her essence, that spoke of me. It happened again this morning. She sat on the couch eating her go to snack of white cheddar cheese and cut up Pink Lady apples, also a favorite of mine. But as she munched, her little mouth moving and her little eyes watching, I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She all at once seemed so old yet so innocent, and all the while reminded me of me. I looked at her and wondered how she came to be 3. It’s really a wonderfully amazing experience to watch the transformation of a child.
I stand in our kitchen, watching her, and I wonder when she will realize that I actually don’t know everything. I really have no idea what I’m doing. That’s not entirely true. When it comes to being a mom, I know how to do it. I know how to do the day to day, the moment to moment. I can change a diaper while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while the pasta cooks and the phone rings and the laundry beeps and she is climbing on my back asking to read Ian’s New Potty for the 18th time that day. Sometimes people see me out with the two of them and ask how far apart they are and say, oh! So you’re tired all the time! Well, yes that’s true. But 2? Come on. I’m one of seven baby, if you want to pat a mom on the back do that to MY mom. She must be eternally tired and still catching up on her sleep from the 20 years that she got none.
What gets me about being a mom to a young girl and a grown up daughter all at the same time is that she looks to me like I have all the answers, yet I still am wholeheartedly searching for my place in this life. For my calling. For my purpose. Being a daughter, I know how she views me. I know that look of fear on her face when she realizes I’ve caught her doing something naughty, as if she’s scared because she thinks I’ve never done wrong. Little does she know of my failures and my fears. She has no idea that I feel a sense of urgency right now to figure out what I think about this world and how to live in it, because soon she’ll be looking to me for answers. Right now I can handle the questions about bikes and trees and dirt and rocks and princesses and the sun and moon. Even if I don’t really know, I can get away with faking it. But soon she’ll want to know more, about why I do what I do and say what I say. And what will my answers be?
I’m going through an “aching kind of growing.” Have been for the last 8 years or so. I wasn’t ready to jump into being a mom when I became one. I didn’t know who I was yet, how could I possibly help another human decide who they’re going to be? But who is? It’s not exactly something your heart is prepared for, because you’ve never felt it before. It’s something wonderful and painful all at the same time to be a mother.
You would think I’d be done growing up since I have kids of my own. Shouldn’t I be? My kids are in for real trouble when they find out I’m actually growing up with them. I still haven’t mastered meal planning (or cooking for that matter), I wash whites with colors, my favorite book is a Dr. Seuss book and the main premise around my favorite show is zombies, I get nervous and shy when meeting new people, I still want my mom when I’m sick and my dad when I need advice, I want people to like me, I have that desperate, aching, child-like longing to make a difference in this world…
At least I’ll recognize it in them when they begin their aching kind of growing.