I have realized that Annikah is becoming a big girl and I am not sure when this happened or why no one informed me. Jason and I often comment to one another on this phenomena; “look at her she is such a little human person”. We use this phrase when she does something that shocks us like the other day when she grabbed her little bag that she calls “Anni’s beach purse” and started out the front door toward the car to announce that she was off to the beach or when she tries her hand at negotiating when I ask her to pick up her blocks, saying “only two blocks Mama?” or “more heavy book story please” at bedtime.
She knows stuff. Lots of stuff about how the world operates. And she is growing up so fast. And I am not sure when all this happened.
I know that in my own selfishness I make so many mistakes in raising this little girl but truth be told she is resilient and strong along with being emotional and stubborn (wonder where she gets that?). She is carving out for herself who she is and what she is all about. I am privileged to have a front row seat to see this little person develop. In a real way I think the act of participating in the creation of a family is something that can put us in touch with the image of God. We are created in our Father’s image and there is nothing more tangible to understanding this truth than a little human made; for better or worse, in our image. I understand this spiritual concept more now than at any other time. My desire is that one day if and when Annikah reads some of what I have written here she; in addition to being mortified that I openly discussed her pooping habits, will understand more that this journey of parenting has shaped who I am. I hope that she realizes the blessing she is to me and how she has an amazing Father in heaven who has been with her since the beginning.
A few days ago I was folding the clothes we had just taken off the line and I started to head toward Annikah’s room to help her put them away when she said “no help mama, Anni do” and not in the snotty toddler way she says many things these days, ie. “no mama (I do not want to put clothes on or put my seat belt on or insert any other task she simply finds repulsive and thus makes her feelings clearly known) but in a genuine “mama, I don’t need your help, I am perfectly capable of putting my own clothes away.” I froze in the hallway for a moment and watched her traipse down the hall with her bouncy walk, folded clothes pushed against her chest, open her closet door, and pile her clothes on the shelf. It was then that my chest tightened and my eyes welled with tears. This is what I want, what I have been hoping for since she came into my life, a more independent Annikah, capable and self assured, willing to ask for help but also strong and independent. But now that she is actually becoming that little girl I was left feeling bewildered and mystified. After breakfast most days she runs out the front door to play with her rafiki and spends sometimes an hour running around and playing without needing me for anything, except the occasional kiss for a boo-boo. I sometimes watch out the window at them playing babies, searching for bugs and bottle caps, or just laughing at a kiddo inside joke.
I am having this profound and uncommon epiphany: she is no longer my baby, she is a real little girl.
I realize, of course, putting away clothes is not akin to the first day of kindergarten, the day she learns to drive, or going away to college but for me in this time and space it is big. This is too much change all at once, already my body aches sometimes missing home, family, friends, the city, all things familiar and comfortable, not my baby too. She cannot grow up and not need me. She was so overly needy for the last 2 months because the transition really kicked all 3 of us in the butt. I would have crawled on my mama’s lap too if she was here. We experienced blessings too numerous to list during that time and although I know it was not nearly as difficult as it could have been, it was still arduous, rougher than the pictures and stories I have shared here tell; hard on our family, on our marriage, on my sense of self. We are learning new roles and new normalcy. Our reality and the routine of life is in many ways starting over. Things we were once proficient at we are now reverted back to the stages of infancy. It is difficult to explain, because I am still processing everything, still searching for a new ordinary amidst so much change. A few weeks back Jason wrote on our whiteboard (the only thing in one of our rooms beside a few empty packing crates) a list of items we need. At the top of his scribbled list was “sanity” followed by a list of items we were trying to remember to get; a voltage regulator, basic tool set, a desk, etc. I laughed when I saw it but in a real way that is what we are searching for right now. I read somewhere that “patience can be formed only in the crucible of frustration” and I have a new understanding of the author’s meaning. Patience with others, with things different from our perceived normal, with Annikah, with Jason, and most of all with myself is what God is teaching me. I have a new appreciation for how patient God is with me in all my mess as I struggle to have patience with others and with my own faults. As I feel so stretched I simultaneously have this amazing sense of peace, that we are here and this is exactly where we are supposed to be. Change is birth of newness, it is painful but can be holy and refining if we experience it and let it teach and guide us, let it in to our very selves. I am desperately grasping at doing just that.
I think this change with Annikah must be one of the hardest things of parenthood, knowing that as she grows she will not need me, at least not in the same ways. My role as her Mama is to teach and guide and discipline and love myself out of a job, or at least an every second job. I hope and pray I will always have a place in her life but as I now realize in a real way it will change and this is by His design. Some days I want to swirl her little ringlets of dirty blond hair in my fingertips for hours or feel her chubby arms around my neck forever and some days when she will not share with her friend or is having the twelfth meltdown in a row I long for the days before I had a child when having alone time was simpler and more readily available. Neither longing is reality, my existence is somewhere in between. I suppose this is the great irony of parenting, you are always longing in part for something different but when a stage or moment passes you experience a sense of mourning. I am so thankful God trusts us enough to let us experience all of this, that He wants us to feel deeply and love and weep through change. So, as I watch my little girl become who she is becoming I am reminded that parenting is a long walk. I am grateful we get to travel the road as a family.