Watch this! Look what I can do! Did you see that??
I have a kid under ten, so I hear some version of that about a hundred times a day. I look up (patiently, and/or excitedly, I hope) every time to witness the clever, odd, incomprehensible, hilarious or frankly alarming things my child does. Sometimes, with the “Did you see that?”s I say, “Yes! That was awesome!” But I didn’t. I know, I suck, but that’s probably not the worst lie a parent can tell.
It does get a little tiresome, especially when I don’t really understand what I’m seeing: tiny action figure performs tiny stunt mostly hidden by tiny cupped hands. “Wow! How did he do that?” I ask, which is the parenting equivalent of saying someone has a great personality.
Or when I have seen it a thousand times.
Or when I’m sure “it” will result in an injury. “Look!” he says jumping off the chair onto his knees in the carpet. “Be careful!” I call again and again, because in my mind the chair is fifty feet tall and the carpet is made of stones.
I’m not complaining. I know that too soon, he won’t care if I’m looking, and too soon after that, he will very much NOT want me looking. So I look, I see, I watch.
Honestly, I can’t look enough anyway. His cheeks are so chubby and cute, and his eyes are so bright, and his laugh is so infectious. And he’s always changing.
Every time I look, I can feel the minutes slip into days and splash into years, and I’m always trying to re-memorize him.
I marvel at my irrational soul that manages to be as eager for my boy’s independence as it is heartbroken at the prospect of it. I wonder if all parents feel the same. I wonder if mine did.
A few days ago, my mom called to say she didn’t think she and dad were going to be up for the journey to see us this winter. I totally understood and wasn’t really surprised. Dad had back surgery recently, and Mom has joint problems that make traveling hard. We would just plan to go see them instead. No big deal.
Something occurred to me after I hung up that put a little chill in me and made everything a little grayer: What if she didn’t just mean “this winter?” What if she meant “ever again?” It’s not like traveling long distances gets easier with age.
I have recently (fortunately) found myself with more time on my hands. I had vague plans to use some of it beautifying my home. Or at least making it seem more like a home than a gigantic toy box. I thought about rearranging furniture, getting some new accessories, painting (that last one might have been a bit of a stretch).
After talking to my mom, my ideas seemed drab and pointless, and they didn’t really feel worth the effort. I realized that all of those plans, like so much of what I do, had centered around the thought, “What would mom think of this?”
So there it is. Thirty something years later I’m still saying , “Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!”
As a mom, that comforts me. He will never not need me.
As a mom, that terrifies me. He will never not need me.
As a daughter, I am sobbing into my pillow. I will never not need her.