The Blink

18 07 2010

A dear friend and her husband just welcomed an adorable baby girl to the world and are happily embarking on the adventure of parenthood. As I look at her photos of that teeny baby snuggled and cuddled and loved and coo-ed over I feel that tug that so many moms of older kids feel. That “where did the time go?” feeling. And of course my friend is now hearing what all moms of newborns hear, “don’t blink or you’ll miss something!” Or “you watch, you’ll blink and she’ll be grown!” I steal a glance at my 11-year old sprawled on the couch in her pajama shorts and tank top, fully engulfed in a Lady Gaga video and ponder that parenting phenomenon known as “The Blink.”

Now let me make something clear. I am not one of those sentimental moms that saves every lock of hair, charts every milestone, and has saved every school project or drawing in a colorful bin labeled ‘precious memories.” I’ve chronicled on these pages before that I have never been a great mom and at times never even been a good mom. But even I was blindsided by The Blink. I started thinking about The Blink the other day when trying to remember what summer we took Liza to Storyland. It was then I realized that I don’t think in years. Rather, I think in terms of what grade she was in, what dance recital or play she was doing at the time, but rarely, if ever, by how old she was or what year it was. Looking at a photo of Liza at the pool the summer we moved to my condo I struggled to think how old she had been and was stunned to realize she was just five. FIVE ! A lifetime ago! Yet, at the same time, a mere blink in the endless cycle of back-to-school shopping, Christmas concerts, Easter masses, and Fourth of July fireworks that make up our lives. Here’s the thing, I don’t really remember Liza being any specific age except for four, because that’s the year we first took her to Disneyworld and also the year my marriage ended. (Ok, I also remember the year she was 9 if only because it was a singularly difficult year for both of us and I wasn’t sure we were going to survive it intact). But ask me what she was like at 7 or 3 or 5 and I’ll look at you blankly and then I”ll do my “let’s see…7..that would have been um… 2nd grade? The year she did Jungle Book? Or was she 8 when she did Jungle Book? Hmmmm….” routine.

Here’s my next confession. I vividly remember Liza’s birth, but I don’t remember much about the long hot summer that followed other than my complete inability to effectively parent an infant. And the toddler years after that? One big blur. I was blessed with the world’s greatest daycare providers who surrounded Liza with love and support and guided her through those first steps, toilet training, and her ABCs. To some moms I know this is seen as abandoning my child, for me, it gave me the support network I needed. I didn’t take to motherhood easily. It blindsided me. I was ill-equipped to deal with long days on the toddler swings, nap schedules and Barney. My personal life at the time was troubled and I wasn’t present physically or emotionally in the way I should have been, I call them the lost years. This gap in time is not helped by the fact that I possess photos of Liza as an infant and scores of photos of her from ages 5-11 but nothing from ages 2-4. I think I left those photo albums at her dad’s house – and rightfully so as he should have his share of photo memories of her. But that lack of a visual record does make it hard for me to remember what she was like. It’s almost as if I went straight from that squalling irritated infant to the tween I just bought size 9 adult ballet slippers for. From folding onesies to picking up a tank top in the laundry and wondering if it belonged to the girl or to me. From preparing bottles for her at 2am to asking her to refill my coffee while she’s in the kitchen. From holding hands with a little girl on the beach, to putting my arm around a young woman nearly as tall as I am. The Blink happened.

As I smile as I read my friends exuberant Facebook posts about those heady early days of motherhood, yet my heart aches a little for the baby Liza was and for the kind of intuitive mom she never had. I love being around new babies, I love holding them and smelling that awesome new baby smell and seeing those little faces so full of promise of the world ahead of them and I love seeing those new moms so in love with them and so sure that they will memorize each moment, that they won’t be a victim of the Blink. I look at Liza and search for reminders of her chubby toddler face where the blasé face of a confident young woman now lives. I stop her suddenly in the supermarket and kiss the top of her head so fiercely she pulls away from me with a horrified “MOMMMMM!” I can’t bring that toddler back, that 5, 8 or 10-year old back nor, honestly, would I want to. Liza has grown into a young woman whose company comforts me, whose humor delights me, and whose talent humbles me. But in this moment when I feel that I finally have a handle on this whole mom thing, I hold on to my 11 year-old with all my might because I know. I know soon she’ll be gone on her way to a future bigger than we can imagine. And I’ll be wondering when I blinked.

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7 responses

18 07 2010
Sue (from MT)

Again – the beauty of your writing has me near tears – what a lovely descripition of the bittersweet feeling of time passing. I love the confidence and independence of my 19yo, and at the same time miss the “hey mom, let’s go on a adventure” that took us ‘only’ around the block! I also grab my 11yo, when he’s not fast enough to duck, and kiss his head. I miss the younger days, but (like you) am having fun marching into the future with them!

18 07 2010
Lowell

Very thoughtful, and most of all, truthful.

18 07 2010
meghan

I get sad when I think I have forgotten long periods of time, when things were a blur. I often wonder if I will continue to forget…but I love when people tell me stories of my kids that I do not remember. So I will tell you one…It was at one of Steve V.’s summer parties and Liza was about 3. Somehow we got to talking about what our kids ate for breakfast and you showed me how Liza still had syrup in her hair from that morning and BOTH of you cried when you tried to comb through it. I think of that often when Ava, at 7 1/2 STILL gets syrup in her hair

18 07 2010
Lisa Cauble

beautiful, as always. And I am one year away from my two being in high school — HIGH SCHOOL? No idea how that happened, how 13.5 years have passed since I held those little babies. It seems like it gets faster all the time.

thanks for sharing your writing and your heart with us.

18 07 2010
Tracy Hahn-Burkett

Beautiful post, Katie.

I’m not a baby person. I never was. I FINALLY have two school-age children, and I couldn’t be happier. I have no desire to go back.

But sometimes I look at my eight-year-old and my five-year-old and I think, WHEN did this happen? When did they become these fascinating people?

That’s when I know I need to take some action to remember the now as fiercely as I can. I try to record some of the moments my kids and I spend together laughing at jokes no one else would find funny. I jot down a few of the silly, embarrassing things they say and make a record of a time or two we spend swapping thoughts about people and life and the world because it hasn’t occurred to my kids yet that mom just isn’t cool. I try to write these moments of discovery down so that when I blink and find that these incredible people–my kids–have transformed into something else yet again, I’ll have some way to reacquaint myself with who they are right now. (Because God knows with my memory, I’ll barely remember a thing!)

It’s true: you blink and they change. Thanks for this essay and this reminder that we should each find our own way to hold on even as we eventually have to let go.

19 07 2010
cherie

the Blink, keeps on blind siding you..
my oldest is turning 28 tomorrow and i still wonder where all the time went..
🙂
as Tara says, live in the Moment, enjoy each one and just breath
and get toothpicks, because it has only just begun…

25 07 2010
Michael Curtiss

Beautiful.

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