Thursday, July 29, 2010

Growing people -or- The pay ain't great, but the job security? Rocks.

I don't know how she does it every night, but every night it's exactly the same: Sara battles the inevitability of sleep in a tangle of blankets and sheets, surrounded by an army of stuffed animals and hunkered down in a bunker of pillows. I'm uncomfortable just looking at her, but it seems to take a particular mix of quilted and down-filled chaos to get her settled in for the night.

And when she is settled (finally), I watch her give in. Her breaths get deeper, her mouth relaxes, her eyelids fight their own weight until they just can't outrun the fatigue. Whether it's her body or her mind, this is a girl in constant motion. Even to that last surrendering sigh her brain is processing, processing... Often times the last thing I hear from her is some seemingly random question or comment, coming to me completely out of context. But I've learned that she's just taking inventory of her day, tying up the loose ends and making sure she's put everything in order -- at least until tomorrow.

I love watching Sara sleep because it's the only time during the day when she is really, truly, still. It's the time when I can still whisper to her how much she is loved without her wriggling away, or give her kisses with her wiping her cheek complaining that I got her face wet. (Honestly, I'm not that sloppy. Really.) I usually look at her every night and wonder happened, how that tiny little thing I used to rock to sleep grew -- overnight, I am convinced -- into this... person. I mean an honest to goodness person.

How the heck did this happen? And did anyone ask me if this was OK?

Of course, it is OK. I mean that's what parents do, we grow people. If Sara wasn't turning into this fabulous, ulcer-inducing little person then I'd have really blown it, despite the fact that I'm not all that thrilled with how quickly we seem to be moving. It just goes by so fast, you know? My mothering of a baby is behind me, and I didn't even know those days were gone until suddenly I had a kid.

(A really freaking awesome kid, FYI.)

I think about the job of mothering from a couple of different perspectives now. Sara is only four and I can't believe how fast it's gone, and I worry that it will all fly by before I've been able to teach her everything she needs to know. I sometimes wonder what Mom thought about her own mothering, in those blessed moments of lucidity, when we all knew there wasn't much time life. Did she worry, too? Did she wish there was more time to teach us what we needed to know? Or do you ever really feel like you've finished the job?

That's the question I'd love to ask my grandmother, although I know I never will. She was 92 when she buried her first born, my father. And I wonder what she thought, whether at 92 she still felt like she was burying her baby, the little boy she grew into a man?

I can't imagine how it could feel any other way.

I once wrote a letter to Sara explaining how she would always be my baby. And that's still true. But now I find myself in the throes of really being a mother, of raising up a brave, strong, kind, independent (gulp), compassionate, beautiful girl. Today it's lessons on how to play nice when you don't make your favorite match in Memory; tomorrow it may be the calm reassurance she needs when her own daughter is lying scared in the emergency room, preparing for her first set of stitches.

So no, I guess I don't believe this job ever ends -- and I think that's pretty damn awesome. A lifetime of helping my favorite kid in the world be the best person she can be sounds like a pretty good gig to me.