I have friends whose lives run parallel to mine, but none of us are in the exact same boat. Even if we both agree that we are in a boat, yours might be metal and mine might be wood… yours could be blue, while mine is red. To me, this speaks of the unique experience we all have as humans. Even though we go through experiences that can be qualified as universal, rarely do we go through something at the exact same rate or pace as our peers.
This week feels like a perfect storm as our oldest child turns six years old and I wean our youngest (and last) babe. I have had a baby in the house for six years straight and I am having a difficult time imagining how it will feel to move out of this phase. As the children continue to grow, leaving behind these markers of babyhood, I realize that they are not the only ones leaving the baby years behind. I am too. Of course there is excitement in these changes, but they are bittersweet as well. I can say that I have been expecting these moments, but I still find myself feeling caught off-guard. In this moment, I take solace in a book I happen to be re-reading right now. Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a favorite of mine. Originally published in 1955, it is a meditation on relationships through various stages of life. I happened to pick up the book again because I felt the need for centering and calming. How happy I am to be reminded of some of Lindbergh’s meanderings, as I, myself, find myself wandering once again through unchartered territory.
I have gone through the weaning of babies twice before, which makes me think it should get easier. I am mistaken, as each time is its own experience – each child unique. My brain is aware that we will move through this stage and there will be lovely snuggles on the other side. Cognitively, I know that I will continue to have a strong relationship with my child post-nursing. But my heart will miss the solitary time together amidst the current chaos of our life. The unique bond between baby and mother, “In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other, the tranquil sky reflected on the face of the mother nursing her child…” (Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea. New York: Pantheon, 1955. Print.)
Try as I might, I cannot freeze time. Even if I could, that would be limiting for everyone. That’s the thing about life, and parenthood specifically; one is forced to live in the present. The raising of children keeps one moving forward, even when we, as adults, are hesitant to desire this. What I am feeling right this minute is a powerful force; a push towards the future and a nostalgic pull back towards my memories of my children as babies. I realize how immediate these feelings are. They will pass and become difficult to remember as they are now. As I think back to friends that have been in this spot, I truly hope the advice I gave to them was thoughtful. I’m sure I tried to remember the best I could, but I have to think the words I found were rather vanilla. I don’t believe that my brain could pinpoint the actual feelings attached to the intensity of the situation.
As I begin the steps of leaving my children’s childhoods in the past, Tracy Chapman’s beautiful lyrics run through my head and heart.
Soft and low when the evening comes
Holding you, sleeping in my arms
I remember there was a time
When I used to sing for you
Tracy Chapman : Sing For You (recording)
Song has been an important element in my relationships with the children since the time of their birth. Songs that remind me of nights spent awake in their infancies, as we grew to know one another. As with nursing, song has been a soothing practice for us all, but is something that remains. As we say goodbye to the baby years and move bravely forward, I hold these memories in my heart. My children love to sing and be sung to at bedtime. That will probably change someday too, but for now I will hold onto it and enjoy the moment.