They sat around the dinner table while I fiddled with containers of old food and dirty dishes in the kitchen. My audience, captive, just the way I like them. My oldest sat in her usual spot, only this time when I looked at her, a sixteen year old looked back at me. This is new, and yet nothing feels different. She is just as much herself as ever. I am just as much myself too.
Earlier in the evening, I explored this new stage in my journal, and I found I couldn’t write much about today or this week or this season because we are living it. I can’t write a retrospective, an “if only I…” or “had we known…”, I can only write “Today, my girl is sixteen. And she is fully herself.”
I found myself writing backwards, into the early years, and a lot around the middles. There’s a huge gap of time that feels like a blur. The early years seared their way into my memory with their intensity, and the latter years benefit from my having written thousands of words as little guideposts along the way. I remember them because I have colorful flags waving from the hills on which I planted them.
But the middle years, I’m not so sure. There were fewer photographs. No blog. Few words, except the ones that rattled around in my head. There were three littles and not enough hours in the day. Three littles with needs and me with not enough energy to meet all of them. Or so I remember. I think.
After journaling, I thought about how much I believe I missed of the middle years. As I chucked food into the trash, and burnt the toast I was planning to eat for dinner, I asked my captive audience. Especially the oldest one–Was I present? Was I there enough? All veiled references to “Did I fail you?”
Up rose a collective triple sigh. “UGGHHH. Mom, get over it. You’re around too much.”said one. “Gah, mom. Stop asking us about your mothering issues.” said another ” Wait, not issues, insecurities.” said the third. “You’re doing great, mom. Seriously, stop asking.”
Well, that settles that. I tried to sound annoyed when I told them I’m not insecure, I just want to “keep the lines of communication open”, but secretly I smiled to myself, more than a little pleased. I’m around too much. They found a way to plant little flags of remembrance of their own during the middle years, and despite my feeling as if I checked out mentally for many of them, my presence in the morning, in the kitchen making burnt toast, at night tucking them in, drove the flagged stakes into the ground.