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.