a backward glance

I was truly humbled by the response to my first blog post last week. This week I was going to talk about the second of my life’s passions – the twin to the passion I have for my family – which is my writing.  But that one will have to wait a little.

It was one of my tweeps who inspired me to post this blog today. @nonoodle wrote in response to my original blog ‘…and then they grow up and you so miss all of that. Mine our now teenagers & I so wish they were still toddlers.. :-)’

Nicky’s comment reminded me of this post which is another of my old Web Child ones. It takes a peek backwards and looks at the bittersweetness of watching our kids grow up.

Fast Forward… Rewind

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s so sad that they have to grow up”? Often directed at newborns by grandparent-types, it’s one of the curious expressions that baffled me when I started having kids. I wanted to say, “Don’t be ridiculous. Why is it sad that they have to grow up? It’s what humans do!” So, do I dare admit that this week I said to my husband, about our kids,  “Isn’t it sad to see them grow up?”

My journey into the wistful world of the metaphorical pause button was prompted by one of the proverbial wonders of modern technology – the home-video camera. Before I had kids I denigrated the home-video auteur. “Who ever watches those videos,” I arrogantly proclaimed. “Dated dust gatherers and tacky video show entries the lot of them.” But these days I am forced to eat humble pie and admit that the home-videos of our kids are my favourite pieces of cinema. And an integral part of our family narrative.

There’s the one where a two-year-old Indy sits in her highchair, absently munching her cereal while watching TV. She’s dressed in a bright red, fleecy, all-in-one suit and is looking totally adorable with bed hair and morning eyes. My disembodied voice from behind the camera says, “What are you watching?” This blonde cherub, who is at once both a stranger, yet also heartbreakingly familiar, looks directly down the camera lens, crinkles her face into a smile and lisps, “Tubbies!” That one word transports me back to those early days, when my life with two babies under two was filled with Teletubbies, walks to the library, rice cereal, nappies and daytime sleeps. Days where my heart was consumed by two tiny people.

Then there’s the video of Levi’s precocious first swim at the age of two. This one was taken at a holiday resort where, although he had never had a swimming lesson, Levi dived in to the water and mimicked the ‘big arms’ of the boys he had seen earlier in the day. His natural style was remarkable and we captured it all for posterity. The part we replay over and over is when Levi comes up from his mammoth effort, spluttering and burping. In his long forgotten two-year-old voice he says, “Me couldn’t talk under de water.” Then he tilts his head to one side and says, with emphasis, “Me panic and me BURP!” ‘Me panic and me BURP!’ has become a catchphrase at our house – a reminder of days now gone but indelibly woven into the fabric of our lives.

Indiana and Levi are now in the early stages of their schooling while I’m a home-alone mum. Each day they return to me just a little bit changed, just a little bit bigger, just a little bit more grown-up.  I don’t recognise them as those babies – my babies – any more. And, I have finally conceded, that’s why it’s sad to see them grow up. Because it means I must say goodbye to some part of them in order to make way for their emerging selves. And, with the help of our trusty video camera, the process is even more bittersweet.

But I am a great proponent of the theory that parenting is the best of all possible worlds. Applied to watching our kids grow up my theory insists that this sadness is intrinsically linked to a sense of joy. It lets me know that, while my beautiful daughter will never again whisper sweetly, “Me watching Tubbies, Mummy,” I can look forward to the day when we sit and talk about the mysteries of life into the early hours of the morning. And, while Levi will never again be that chubby-cheeked toddler with the mischievous grin, one day he will fall in love for the first time. And perhaps he’ll share that with me.

So, yes, I now agree: it is sad that kids have to grow up and that we have to say goodbye to them in stages. But – and here’s the paradox – it’s also incredibly joyous to watch kids blossom. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to fall in love with the continuous emergence of the people I know as my children.

Do you find it bittersweet to look at family photos/videos? How do you feel about your kids growing up?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “a backward glance

  1. Thea

    Oh, how your post resonates!!!
    Mine are still only 5 and 2 and I tear up almost every night watching them sleep in their bed & cot, wondering how they got to be so big already.
    Thank goodness for the sweet that comes with the bitter.
    I have a lump in my throat.

  2. Beautiful.

    Up until fairly recently, I’ve often made the comment, both to myself and others, that I’m looking forward to the end of the “toddler tunnel”. My 2yr old (almost 3yr old) has been quite difficult at times, esp over the last year, and I’ve found myself almost wishing time away so it could be easier.

    But now, as he morphs into this little man he has become, I’m starting to realise I need to cherish him. If all goes to plan, he will be our last “baby”, and I want to savour every last moment. When he throws his arms around me and says, “Love Mummy,” my heart fills up. My big boys don’t do that often. (Too cool for school.) I’m going to enjoy it whilst it lasts!

    Great post. x

  3. I shouldn’t have read this today. My oldest “baby” is 11 and has been at Band Camp since Monday. I have missed her like crazy! Looking at old photos might just push me over the edge.

    Every time I hug her these days she is getting longer and leaner as pre-teens do. She’ll overtake me in a year or so. So when I see little ones all nestled in to their mummies, I do feel a momentary pang for that chubby precocious little toddler that she was.

    But I take solace that now we read books and watch TV and movies together and talk and talk about silly things and deep things. I love seeing her starting to make her way in the world as a confident, beautiful young girl. There’s so much wonderful stuff behind us, but there’s so much more to look forward to as well.

  4. Nicky

    Love your blog… Yes it is true that I miss my boys being toddlers, but I so love them as teens and being able to have adult conversations with these young men that I have helped to mould. It is very interesting to see how they think and express themselves as independent young men…. I feel so blessed!

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  6. “Me panic and me BURP!” Oh my god J, I have not laughed so hard in a while. That is great. Sometimes it’s worth waiting 3 years to read something like this. It particularly resonates right now. xx

    • Oh Bern, as you know life has changed even more than I expected back then. So there’s a poignancy in this post for me now. But on Friday night my Indy (now 11) was sitting eating toast with me and said: mum, I love hanging out with you and talking. Kinda like room-mates. 🙂 And my boy has spent most of the year sharing his torturous love-joy-heartache with me (at 10 wtf?!) Anyhow – my point is that these things seemed a virtual impossibility during some of my relatively recent darker days. So now those days are in the past the bliss is even more keenly felt. Ups and downs. Bittersweetness. Happy sadness. The seasons of parenting. I love it xx

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