There’s a fog that descends over you when you’re a parent. You can’t see too far behind you, you can’t see too far ahead of you; all you can see is what’s around you.
The fog was literal today, and heavy, as we drove from our town to the next. Each moment of the familiar drive was a small revelation, a lesson in attention to details. Does the road curve up ahead? What comes after this stand of trees? After the Smokehouse, how many driveways are there before the grocery store? With a visibility of five to ten yards, there was no time for anything but attentive awareness.
It’s the parental state we seem to live in, too. We try to be attuned to her daily needs, to balance playing outside with down time, to be sure she doesn’t get too hungry or too thirsty, to expose her to the richness of the world. Sometimes, we try to look far ahead, but more often, we look behind. We look back at pictures from two years, one year – even six months – ago and we’re shocked. Did she really have so little hair? Were her cheeks really so much rounder? Was there really a time when she slept every two hours?? Living in the present is necessary: if we don’t notice the details of day-to-day life, we’ll miss things, both big and small.
Like tonight: I asked her what color plate she wanted (after she’d discussed, with Nene and Poppa via Skype, what color plates we’d use at dinner). She said,” Yellow. Actually, orngin [her way of saying ‘orange’].” When she went to bed, after a long and trying day which was nearly all downhill after 3:00, owing to being a no-nap day and having moms’ group at our house, during which she mostly snatched toys the second someone picked something up and cried, she gave me a kiss. Then, she gave me lots of kisses, kisses on both cheeks and on my forehead, back and forth, like a mama animal nuzzling its young. She covered me in kisses. “I love you so much!” she said. And so much of my frustration melted away. My within-five-yards lessons today: my daughter knows how to use the word “actually” and she is aware of, even if unable to control, her tired self and the frustration that she causes, so the kisses were love and apology and relief all in one.
I find some relief in the fog, too. Something’s ahead, something’s behind – but right now, it doesn’t matter. It’s enough to have this week, this day, this moment, with my daughter, my husband, my family, my friends.