Every so often I like to do written snapshots of life, just to capture a breath of our life in the spaces between these tiny black lines. There are so many little things in life with children that fade in and out of focus. Little quirks, lisps, interests, favorite games–the myriad of traits that combine and grow, shaping babies into toddlers, and toddlers into preschoolers and so on. The phases that feel eternal never are, and they disappear without fanfare into the larger picture of a childhood. As mothers we tend to cherish the parts and pieces of our children’s lives as much as the larger picture, and that’s what this is about. Words can’t really capture a moment in time, but they might sow a seed deeper into memory than the ordinary everyday habit of life.
Toddler Beds and Neck Hugs
We moved Sieg to a toddler bed. He falls asleep so easily, we thought it might be a better transition than what we’ve experienced (are still experiencing, to be honest) with Eva. The bed is just big enough for me to lie on my side next to him, and I do, every time I put him down for a nap or bed. He settles so quickly. All the frenetic energy and curiosity of his toddler mind seems utterly spent by naptime, and again by bedtime.
He lies totally still, one arm flung around my neck, while I sing his song. It doesn’t even take a minute for his eyelids to grow heavy. There’s something magical about watching a baby fall asleep, especially when they go so quickly and deeply. A few seconds, maybe a minute, of watching his eyelids flicker up and down, before they settle closed and his breath slows and evens into the steady inhale-exhale of sleep.
Ponytails and Piano Lessons
Eva emerged sometime in the last couple of weeks with a burning desire to play piano. I play around on the piano sometimes, and she has always lingered when I do play, but she started hovering. Closer… closer. Then, “Can I have pi-nano lessons?” She pulls out a beginning piano book that I’ve had stashed with my music and holds it out with both hands, her hazel eyes wide with excitement.
I help her up onto the piano bench beside me. Hands out, fingers curved, back straight, feet down. I give her a first lesson, and she plays E-I-E-I-O from Old Macdonald’s Farm. Her excitement is boundless and knows no waning. Days later she is still rushing downstairs to practice her lessons every morning, and begging for “pi-nano” lessons every afternoon. She is so eager and determined. Her little hands stretch, straining for each note, fiercely grappling for the measured control necessary to play different lengths of notes and rhythms. I can’t help hoping that this is the beginning of a lifelong love affair with music for my Eva-girl.
Comic Strips and Legos
The change in Klaus over the last few years is the thing I find myself marveling over the most right now. How he went from being an adorably chunky toddler with golden curls and melty chocolate eyes to a slim, always active almost-six year old is almost uncomprehensible to me. He’s the quietest of the kids at home, although he certainly still has plenty to say. If everything in the world disappeared except Legos and his Calvin and Hobbes books, I don’t know that he would notice a difference.
He designs houses and robots almost constantly, working out intricate details in his imagination and explaining them carefully to any curious party. Those same melty chocolate eyes light up with curiosity, and alternately twinkle with mischief all day long. He tells jokes, and quotes Calvin and Hobbes so frequently, I have to check myself before I react when he says something that sounds outrageous. 99.999999% of the time he’s kidding and it’s something from Calvin and Hobbes. Today he made Eva a Valentines card, with a phrase he remembered from Calvin and Hobbes.
“How do I love you? Let me count the ways. 1. Ummmmmmm…….”
Handwritten letters and Helping Hands
Word flow out of Sophia like the water ripping through our tiny little creekbottom after a week of rain. There are bubbling rapids of words, placid pools of words lazily trickling on downstream, and occasionally words that flood the banks, impetuously dousing everything in their path. She writes, she breathes, she talks. She leaves valentine letters on the counter, writes notes in my planner, fills her own notebooks with lists and plans, and sometimes stories or comic strips. I adore her wordiness, even when her talking far outpaces mine.
Lately, she talks while she helps me clean the kitchen in the evening. Klaus helps too, but Sophia has embraced the position whole heartedly. “Mom, every time you clean the kitchen, you have to call me. I’ll do this. You wash, I’ll dry. Now, tell me a story of your child-life.” We work together, and I tell different stories I remember from my “child-life”.
They are my story
The magic of stories in childhood transcends all time. I remember the stories I was told as a child, and wonder at the full-circle effect of it all. Here another child, another generation listening, and they are now my stories. The words themselves, and the children, soaking up my words. They listen, wide-eyed and rapt, to all the memories I conjure of early-morning horseback rides across dewy fields, rainy camping trips, and baking projects gone wrong. They delight in their imaginations of my days gone by, probably never realizing that they are my favorite part of this story.