I’ve been writing about my youngest daughter a lot this year. This is perhaps for several reasons, not the least of which is that writing about my nine-year-old feels trickier and trickier by the day. The waters have become murkier when it comes to boundaries, separating which stories are hers and which are mine to tell. Whereas my four-year-old and I seem to still be entwined in so many ways, our stories overlapping more.
Not to mention the fact that at this age, things are changing so rapidly that as soon as I write something about her, things have changed. Blogging and writing have always served many purposes in my life: as a creative outlet, a way to connect with others, an attempt to be helpful, comforting, or entertaining . . . but it also serves as a journal of sorts to remember my girls’ childhoods.
When I write about them, I capture them for a moment in time, like a photograph but through the very specific filter of my memories and the meaning I assign to each moment. When I remember them that way, I also remember what it was like to be their mother at the six-month mark, two-and-a-half, five years old. It is a gift of sorts, one that I hope they will appreciate when they are grown, despite the stories that could potentially make them squirm.
I know that writing about my children is my fruitless attempt to freeze time, because I find myself so frequently immersed in what Brené Brown refers to as “foreboding joy.” During those occasions when I feel so overcome with love for my children as they are right in that very instant, I am also mindful of how fleeting it is, that during the very second that I am loving them, I am losing them in a way. I know it’s a depressing mentality, but there it is. I find myself preoccupied by the tiny losses that comprise parenthood, the reality that every day we are losing specific incarnations of our children.
And it makes me sad.
I look at baby photos, toddler photos, photos of my oldest child at an age my youngest has not yet reached, and I mourn for them. Yes, yes, I also simultaneously chide myself and knock on wood furiously, knowing that there are many mothers who have actually lost their children in very real, non-metaphorical ways. But I can’t shake that sense that we don’t really get to keep our children. We lose them over and over while discovering them in new ways we could never have imagined yet still seeing a glimmer of that baby face inside the one that nears tweendom. It’s a beautiful, painful, gratitude-inspiring, terrifying process.
And so I write about Sophie, desperate to remember her tiny teeth and her deep, rolling belly laugh, the sound of her horse whinny, and her mismatched clothing. Last week I shared a piece on Scary Mommy about her brief foray into profanity (which has pretty much passed, since I wrote the article). I want to remember these things in their combined hilarity and cringe-inducing glory.
And this week I achieved one of the writing goals I’ve been working toward for several years: For the first time, my work has been published in the Washington Post’s On Parenting. This piece isn’t educational, or humorous really, or anything more than a snapshot of my daughter just as she is now. Here’s an excerpt:
My fourth grader proudly brought home the first entry in her weekly writing journal. She was supposed to describe someone in her family, and she chose to write about her 4-year-old sister.
“Sophie is a feisty, fun, talkative tomboy,” she wrote, and I was surprised. It was the first time I had heard anyone describe my second daughter that way, and I wondered where my oldest had gotten that idea.
As I sat at the kitchen table considering the accuracy of her assertion, my preschooler zoomed into the room wearing her Transformers T-shirt and whinnying like a horse. She did have markedly different interests than her big sis at that age.
The Transformers craze took me by surprise. My oldest child would have never watched that show, nor would she have ever picked up a random object and “pshoo-pshoo”d anyone with it. She didn’t say things like, “You knocked me over and I died,” which I’ve heard during the height of Sophie’s wild, imaginative adventures.
You can stop by and read the full article, “I guess I’m raising a ‘tomboy’ at the Washington Post’s On Parenting here.
As I write this, I listen to Sophie behind me in my makeshift office, immersed in some elaborate game of her own invention. “I’ll always love you Rudolph, no matter what,” she whispers. “I’ll come back for you, someday.” She dramatically launches into the first few measures of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She is perfect right now in this moment, as she will be in a year, and at age five, and as a young woman. And I hope I can remember her, this version of her, forever.
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Congratulations on the WASHINGTON POST piece!!
Aw. Absolutely lovely. Huge congrats on the Washington Post piece – that’s stellar.
Thank you, Kelly!
I read this as we wait and wait for the birth of my neice’s baby. The letting go is beginning even before the baby leaves the womb. I get what Brene Brown is talking about with the “foreboding joy.” I have 8 months to go before saying goodbye to Celia as she heads for college. My foreboding, her joy. My joy too. You remind me to journal more so that I can remember. Thank you!
You have such a major writing year!!! I’ve loved following along! I don’t always comment (hate commenting on Scary Mommy and a few of the other big sites) but I am HERE reading and paying attention. You are honest and funny and insightful– all three good ingredients for spot on essays.
And I hear you on the issue of writing about your older daughter. I have that same issue with my big three and anything I’d want to say about the youngest is a bit “been there done that.” That’s why I love the friendship topic for our HerStories column. 😉
Wow, Nina, thank you SO much. That means a lot coming from you. Your year has been pretty fantastic, too! 😀
Congratulations Stephanie! How exciting. I loved the article. My daughter is a Tomboy, too. I guess it was unavoidable with three brothers. I used to fight to get her in a dress, and then I asked myself why. She’s her own person and I love her confidence.
Thank you for that, Allie!
Beautiful piece and a great reminder for me after having a difficult night with my 20-month-old twins and where I was wishing to speed time up a little (or a lot — I may have said “Is it time for college yet?” tonight) so they could do things like brush their own teeth! But I know how fleeting it is and I will regret wishing time away. Congrats on your On Parenting piece. Great post.
Thanks for that thoughtful comment, Caryn. I’m torn, because I really hate the “savor every moment” advice. It’s just too hard to do during those intense, rough moments or stages (or years) of parenting, and I think it’s perfectly normal to want to speed through something. I struggle to find the balance between appreciating the small moments and staying present and allowing myself to dislike the parts of motherhood that suck, you know?
Its so true, we do lose our children, but they also come back to us. As the mother of two grown sons, I can attest to that.