After an extended hiatus, I’m bringing back my Growing Together series. And I’m so thrilled to do so. I’ve missed this, making new friends and featuring stories of growth. I learn something every time that helps shape my parenting perspective.
Today, of course, is no different. I am so thrilled to feature the words of Tamara from Tamara Camera. Tamara and I have similar families – big sisters making their way through the preschool years and loving on baby brothers. Her words are always so honest and down to earth and her photos are simply stunning. I love the sweet moments she’s shared here so please, read her words and then go visit her space. And send her a bit of love, she’s running a bit ragged these days with an injured husband at home and could use some smiles!
There’s this inside joke, that’s not really a joke, that I’ve been using on my daughter for years.
Whenever she says or does something absolutely irresistible, or adorable, or clever, or innocent, or wise beyond her years, or anything at all that is just so her that I feel my breath catch in my throat, that’s when I say it. “Don’t ever change.” She laughs each time, and I laugh too, as she’s grown to love and expect it from me as much as I’ve grown to love and expect the awesomeness that is her awareness and connection with the world, and with me. Sometimes I can still be witty and adorable and she uses it right back on me.
“Don’t ever change, Mama.”
And of course we both do change. We grow and we change – sometimes they go hand in and hand. Sometimes they don’t. What I’m asking for is a lofty goal, but not impossible or even unlikely. I’m asking her to keep sacred the traits most entrenched in her core.
When she’s sleeping, I still see so deeply in her face the faint outlines of a baby. The bottom lip pouted ever so slightly. The pinch-worthy cheeks. A sweaty curl stuck to her forehead. They tend to get lost in the folds when she’s awake and sassy and loud and argumentative. I get flustered easily, especially while I’m tending to her baby brother who still has all of his baby-ness intact and also does irresistible things that make me constantly say, “Don’t ever change, Des.” I find myself saying it less but meaning it more when I say it to Scarlet. It’s not just a panicked grasp to hold onto my ever-growing girl, as she ever-grows away from me.
It’s because the changes she’s making are astounding. She can tell me knock-knock jokes about farts and Doctor Who. She can talk about her fears of some bees – “mean stingers” and about how much she loves the other bees who – “make honey for us.” However nonsensical. However much she believes in dinosaurs and dragons as real beings, as she makes connections betweens stories, dreams and realities, and relationships with her planet, her family and her friends, well, we find that some of our interests and passions align.
During both of my pregnancies, I never thought past the baby stage. I would say, “I’m expecting a baby.” “I can’t wait to have a baby.” “I’m going to have a baby!” And of course there rushed forth so many images of the future – all mental pictures of myself or my husband or both of us with a baby. I confess I was terrified of raising kids. And forget pre-teens and teens and adults!
I can’t pinpoint exactly when she turned from baby to toddler and toddler to preschooler, because I imagine it happened in a series of moments and days and even years, but I still felt like I had a kid before I noticed I had a kid. As if her kid-ness was sneaking up on me the way my own adulthood has and continues to do so. I have always had what I believe is seemingly more trouble than most with transitions. I nearly had panic attacks before her first birthday – for real. Her second birthday was smoother and easier for a lot of reasons, but still I felt like my chest was being squeezed by a large and invisible force. My baby! Melting away another year and another few layers of baby fat at the height of every summer. My summer baby turned summer girl turned…whatever is next.
They say it’s all gone in the blink of an eye. Babies into adults. And yet, there’s still all those full in-between days and years, stretched out like promises in front of us that we will be blessed to fulfill. She won’t get to adulthood on her own. Birds fly from secure nests.
Sometimes, often, the days are as long and hard as the years are short. Like many three-year-olds, she shrieks at me and argues with me around every bend. I can’t win no matter what I do. There are constantly new rules and new languages I must follow and learn. Or else. I throw up my arms in frustration that it’s so much harder to bond with a kid than it is a young baby, but every day she teaches me that is simply not the case. There are many benefits to all of these changes and growth and tough stuff. There’s certainly no visible awards or trophies or medals to parenting – we don’t even get a finished product. Not at three and not at 100. Our children are ever-finishing products as we work to raise, not babies, but as my fellow blogger’s website title says – we raise humans.
And they raise us as parents. I grow more accustomed to this life process every day. Growing her as a child and growing me as a parent. We both are making new connections as we navigate life both together and as apart. I used to think that her need for me was lessening by degrees, all of the time. Now I think it’s just changing with us – expanding and collapsing sometimes within one day – and that there is a power in that I will always be her mother and she will always be my child. At three. At 30. At 100. Not my baby..
..but my person.
It caught her eye at the same time it caught mine – our reflections across the room in the reflective glass of a framed Phish poster. It was a rare morning in which I woke up with her and not the baby. My husband was out on early errands and I was almost too sleepy to stand as I contemplated making her waffles or pancakes. Even though it was April, she was wearing bright orange Halloween pajamas. She asked for a hug and as I held her and swayed, we both glanced over at once to see ourselves reflected back.
“Look! It’s a kid and her mama.” She said. And so it was. And so it is. I took in our mirror images, and I marveled at the wonder that no matter how separately we grow, we will always find a way to fit together.
I am a professional photographer, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at Tamara Camera Blog and a nearly professional cookie taster. I’ve been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. After two cross country moves, due to my intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, I live with my husband, daughter and son in glorious western Massachusetts. Pets are soon to follow. We like it here and we aren’t going anywhere, but we dream about northern lights, moose and whales always. I also like caramel lattes and rainbows more than most things.