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Pickle Me This

May 14, 2012

"I’m not sure if it’s sad or amazing that this is my life now."

“I’m not sure if it’s sad or amazing that this is my life now,” is something I wrote here nearly three years ago, not long after my life had changed forever and I still wasn’t sure if I liked it. “Now, must wake baby, feed baby, change baby. For we’re off to a program at the library that promises songs, and stories and “tickle rhymes” for all.”

And we all know how that worked out, of course: that first day, Harriet fell asleep in my arms, and we kept going back and back to learn new songs, hear new stories, so I could learn new ways to engage with my baby, to memorize the tickle rhymes that made her smile so I could pass them onto her Daddy when he came home at the end of day. The library became our community centre, its staff became some of our favourite people (and there was a time when Harriet referred to four people by name: Mommy, Daddy, Elmo, and Cindy [from Spadina Road] so that means something).

We had good company, made some excellent friends– though truth be told, not so many. I used to spend a lot of time sitting in circles of Mommies I could never love, wondering what had happened to my life, and also why everybody was thinner than me. I also dealt with a reputation as “the mom who knows all the songs”, which was a little embarrassing. But then as Harriet got bigger, we grew more secure in our new world (and found enough friends gathered from here and there that we always felt bolstered), the crowd seemed to matter less and less and the library program became about us, something fun for us to do together. We also weathered the stage where she wouldn’t sit still and I spent Baby Time chasing her around the library.

We graduated to the toddler program at the Lillian H. Smith Library, which came with a door that closed so Harriet couldn’t escape. And like that touchstone first day of Baby Time, when Harriet fell asleep in my arms, we had our toddler touchstone too when at the end of The Beanbag Song, 18 mos. old Harriet could not stand relinquishing her beanbag and howled inconsolably. The next week, however, she’d got with the routine, and returned her beanbag with all the other kids, and I had this sense that here was my girl learning the ropes, figuring it out, watching the world around her and deciding how she’d fit into it.

And so I got a bit teary this morning as I watched Harriet put her beanbag away for the final time, so at home in this environment and without a doubt that she’s entitled to the richness our community offers us. I remembered that 2 mos old baby in my arms that very first day as we sat in a circle singing Sea-Shell, Sea-Shell, Sing a Song to Me, and that screaming toddler clinging to her beanbag for dear life, and now this fabulous child who will be three in two weeks, who knows the ropes in some ways but is still figuring out in others– she likes to watch up to strangers and say, “I’m Harriet.” Sometimes she will hug them. Sometimes they are more or less comfortable with that, and my heart seizes. I already feel like the mother in Kristen den Hartog’s And Me Among Them who’s silently imploring her daughter’s schoolmates as she follows them all on their way to school, “Walk with her, please walk with her. Walk the rest of the way with my girl.” My girl. Yes.

But then my girl is also fierce, hilarious, loving, enthusiastic, fun, and kind, and her hugs are still age-appropriate enough that they’re met with the same. And now she knows all the songs too, singing along out of tune and half-screaming. Today when Joanne read us Jamberry, Harriet amazed us all by reciting the book along with her. Last week, she didn’t even sit with me, but up at the front with the other kids where she took her cues from the rowdiest ones and had a brilliant time. And once again, I wasn’t sure if it was sad or amazing that this was my life now. Sitting back, watching Harriet begin making her way in the world– it’s incredible to see her independent of me, but I miss the squishy goodness of her body in my lap, in my arms. Watching her put the beanbag away one last time, like a veteran toddler. When the program begins again in September, Harriet will be too old and enrolled in nursery school.

And so it’s away with one stage and onto another, sad and exciting, tragic and wonderful, and I’m getting the idea that being a mother means that we do this over and over again.

8 thoughts on “"I’m not sure if it’s sad or amazing that this is my life now."”

  1. Claire says:

    Oh, how I enjoyed this post. You offer great inspiration for being a mum, and I am sure that Harriet’s next adventure will be just as exciting and rewarding.

  2. Jodi says:

    This just made every Children’s Librarians day a little more special.

  3. Susie says:

    My girl turns 13 today… reading this was a wonderful birth day treat for me.

  4. It’s kind of funny, sad and amazing that I read this post this morning. My daughter just turned seventeen, and is certainly out making her way in the world with aplomb, and a self possession I never had at that age. And yet despite what sometimes feels like seventeen years of leaving one stage behind and moving on to another, all new territory each time, that funny, sad and amazing feeling never leaves. I was walking the dog this morning, and for some reason, the sight of a newly constructed (and quite elaborate) treehouse made me suddenly teary. I saw the bikes in the yard, the pastel coloured toys, the debris of childhood. I saw the general chaos of the yard, as undoubtedly the parents had run out of time to clean up, and were, I imagined, curled up on a couch somewhere exhausted but happy with what they had provided for their kids. And I guess I had a sudden realization that that stage of my daughter’s life was over, really over. I suddenly felt awful we had not built her a treehouse! What kind of parents were we! I wanted to snatch her back from this wonderful veering into adulthood and build her one! And head up there with her, up the ladder with a bowl of ice cream and two spoons and all the love I feel for her. But I can’t. She is out spreading the wings I taught her how to use, making her place in the world, growing up. That particular time of parenthood is gone forever. I come home and peek at her Facebook page. Her beautiful face shines through cyberspace, along with links to much-loved bands and funny posters and even her boyfriend. I am so proud of her, and feel ridiculous for the tears I shed this morning. Ridiculous, sad, amazing, awful, wondrous motherhood. What a trip. Thanks for this Kerry, it made my day.

  5. Michael H says:

    My son recently made his way from my lap to the front of the room during library storytime. I’m so proud of his progress and engagement in an event I’m so fond of, but I have to admit I can relate to the way you describe sitting back and watching her grow.

  6. Kerry says:

    Thank you all for your comments. That my experience is pretty universal underlines that the world is a little bit okay, don’t you think? Which is nice to consider.

  7. Ahhh this came at the right time, today was our last day of library toddler time as the session finished for the spring and only starts up again in September when I return to work :-(!

  8. judy says:

    A wonderful piece of writing Kerry. The last line is bang on. We do it over and over again, forever I suspect.

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