I told Sam I was so proud of the little boy he was becoming: goofy and kind, curious and sensitive, and he responded, while looking at his feet, “But sometimes I don’t listen to you.” I told him I know, and he continued with, “Like sometimes when you pick me up and I run and hide at Miss Julie’s house.” Oh, I know it, kid. (After work, after pacifying in measured tones all day, I just sometimes cannot offer my own kids that practiced graciousness and I yell, and count to three, and threaten time-outs when they’re hiding behind patio furniture. Just get. In. the. Damn. Car.) I thanked him for recognizing it can be aggravating and he shyly smiled, and we hugged, there at his eye level, at the entry-way to his room. “Love you too, Mommy,” he said after I told him the same.
Picking-up Annie after school — catching glimpses of her amongst her friends on the playground before she spots me, sweaty and spirited, is something really special. She takes my hand and leads me to her classroom, showing me her projects, showing me Casey or Carol or Tommy’s projects, too. “This is where we put our lunches!” as she points to the fridge, and “My project is here somewhere,” as we gaze up to the ceiling as autumn leaves danged at first, then snowmen, then hearts and baskets of Easter eggs. She always wants me to look at her math workbook. Always be this excited about school, Annie, I silently plead.
She is animated and beautiful during these afternoons and it is so fleeting. By the time she gets home she rarely wants to talk about school, and I know by the time she gets older she won’t either. They let us in just a little bit. Sam announced I can only ask “ONE THING!” when I pick him up from daycare. He admonishes me if I ask a follow-up. I counter that my second question is related to my first question, but he already has his fingers in his mouth (yes…still…) and is hazily looking out the window. He’s already gone.
And this is why I don’t write often. How can I adequately express the profundity of parenthood when it’s these small, quiet moments that happen between car rides to swim class or when scooping kitty litter? Most of parenting is guiding, shuffling, explaining, negotiating, denying (relentlessly) and then, just to get you through, it’s recounting these smatterings of magic when the kids are in bed. They say parenting is hard on couples — you lose yourself — but there is such sweetness as Matt looks across the room at me when one of the kids does this or that. He’s the only other one whose cadence walks with mine when it comes to their nuances and moods (the grandparents see it, too, but I think you really need to see the lows to fully see the cracked light crevices of the highs).
I asked the kids if they’ll still be close as adults. Always chose each other, I think, as they grab hands on the playground. And then there’s that light again. That moment. “I think so,” Annie said. “But I’m going to be really busy helping the giraffes (she wants to be a large mammal vet) and I just don’t know if I’ll have time for Sam. But he can stay in my room and wait for me when I’m at work. As long as he doesn’t make a mess.” Sam giggles, and we all join in.