Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Free Launch"

At some point in my twenties, my desire to have children became incontrovertible.

Uh-HUH. I wanted kids. Fo' sho'.

This certainty necessitated a messy break-up with my 46-year-old vasectomized boyfriend of six years. I'm sorry, Jack. You had not the sperm I needed. Plus, you were kind of emotionally shattered and full of scary landmines. In all, it was a healthy escape, that break-up spurred on by my insistent femme-eggs.

This certainty was born out of an instinctive feeling that having kids would bring me a life where I might romp with the wee ones--in slow motion--through Central Park, helping their little Hanna Andersson-clad bodies to launch kites into the air. We would fly kites. Then we would eat Italian ices before tripping over to FAO Schwartz, where we'd empty my teeming wallet on the purchase of a 7-foot stuffed giraffe.

Oh, yes. I wanted kids for the fun, the joy, the carefree adventures we'd have together.

After a few years of anguish, I got really lucky and had a couple.



Well, hardee-damn-harhar on my Vaseline-lensed visions of parenthood.

Indeed, as has been well documented in this space previously, life with kids is often more about the suck than the joy.

Sure, sometimes we get out kites. Pretty much, the kids get all excited, and then they get impatient during the 8 minutes it takes to untangle the kite string. Their repeated "Is it ready yet?" questions quickly become annoying. After that, the kite finally ready to go, the kids try running, string in hand, and then they trip and get bloody knees, or they can't run fast enough to ever get the too-big kite to fly, or the kite insists on diving straight to the ground time and again until it noses directly into some asphalt and splinters, or there's not enough wind, or, as you can see, some suck overtakes any slow-motioned vision of joy.

Other times, we go to the park, and often it's fun and all, but equally often, there are issues of strings (of snot) and bloody knees and wind and splintering and hunger and sand in the eyes that send us all trooping back home, quick-step, not at all in sun-dappled slow motion.

On average, parenthood seems to run about one (unexpectedly) terrific kid outing for every two stressful, whining, blister-ridden trips to the playground.

Parenthood, therefore, has proven to be about one-third "we're havin' a ball" and two-thirds "are they asleep yet?"

Despite this reality,

however,

there have been surprising gratifications, ones I never imagined back in my empty-womb days.

Specifically, an unforeseen benefit of spewing out and then raising my kids has been the chance to re-process my own childhood from an adult vantage point. While my kids are having different experiences than I did, there is enough overlap that I can watch my daughter stepping into a moment, gauge her reaction, and then fly back through time to a similar day when I was eight, remembering my own reactions. I actually get to be analytical about experiences that just "were" when I was living through them myself. They give me new reflections of my own junk.

And, really, what is having kids all about, if not giving me a chance to think more about myself and how it all comes back to me?

Honestly, though, look at this series of pictures:

Jocelyn, first day of kindergarten, 1972
MOOD: Tentative


Girl, first day of kindergarten, 2005
MOOD: "Is there a word for both excited and nervous at the same time?"


Groom, first day of kindergarten, 1976
MOOD: Brash


Niblet, first day of kindergarten, 2008 (Girl contemplates shoving him to the floor by the 5th grade lockers)
MOOD: Mock Brash



Der Wee Niblet, even without formal education, uses body language to indicate he realizes all this hue and cry may ultimately signify nothing.

-------------------

The photos have it.

We are all uncannily resonating with each other. She is me, and I is her, and he is him, and we is a jigsaw that makes an us.

I look at these photos and have a revelation: all this shizz is just going to keep happening, inn't? In 2028, some other five-year-old is going to get on a bus, right?

And if that five-year-old is my grandchild, I'll look at her and see my grandmother's smile on her anxious face. Later, when she takes up gymnastics, I'll remember how her mother, my daughter, liked to do a cartwheel to approach the kicking of a soccer ball; and how I, in junior high, loved doing leaps in gym class, fully fleshing out the required navy blue polyester shorts in my arcs through the air; and how my mom, in her own navy blue polyester shorts, used to turn somersaults down the hallway lined with the green shag carpet; and how her mom used to dance in the kitchen on the hot days when she would wipe down the walls to cool down the house; and how her mom used to do a handstand in the lake when only the ladies were looking;

and how each of us will echo the other

until the whole place goes black.

24 comments:

lime said...

ah the echos are quite the study aren't they? given that i am adopted i rather enjoy considering the nature vs. nurture aspect of some of the echos and/or lack thereof in my own line. it's been rather an odd and enlightening thing. in some ways i was a strange and new shout into the canyon and only now hear the surprisingly similar echos coming back. in other ways i provided somewhat distorted echos of those shouting before me. it's all and odd but joyous cacophony at times.

pistols at dawn said...

Well done as per usual, but thinking about the echoes just distracts from what you conceded was the main point: more time to think about me. I'll stick with that, thankee. I'd rather be the "Jack" part of that equation anyway. Well, sans a few of the landmines.

Shania said...

I love, love, LOVE this post. You've put into words what's been swirling around in my mind. I've been trying to articulate it since Silas turned 5, but now I don't have to! You rock.

Franki said...

i recently found my 6th grade buck-toothed school pic and my older son was amazed and TOTALLY embarrassed to find we were twins.

it's true there are many tough times that come along with the responsibility of parenthood, but i gotta say, just one unasked-for sweet nuzzle from my taller than me boys makes up for them.

Jeni said...

Although I always enjoy your writing -especially about the kids -tonight, reading this piece, you brought tears to these old eyes of mine as I remembered the first day of school for each of my three children and contemplating now too the first day of kindergarten set to happen next year (2009) for my sweet little granddaughter -who is very much a carbon copy of her mother, her aunt and yes, in many ways,also of her Grammy here. History repeating itself? In many ways, I do hope it is that but with a few of the down sides, hopefully, eliminated in the process.

Chantal said...

Wow I got surprisingly emotional reading that.

furiousBall said...

"I'm sorry, Jack. You had not the sperm I needed."

did you follow that up with, "That's the gist of it"

Because if you did, I think it would be funny to pretend to slip and say, "That's the jizz of it."

I bet a well timed slip of the tongue knee slapper like that would have put Jack at ease. Ahhh, jizz jokes.

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

Oh, I love this post! Not long after having Little Z (and still fairly ditzy on those whacked-out postpartum hormones), I had this epiphany that I now belonged within a vast biological chain -- that I had not given birth to only a baby, but to the possibility of descendents, and that all of those people's future existances hinged on what I had done.

Talk about feeling like the center of the universe...

The whacked-out postpartum hormones have long since vanished, but your post reminded me of that giddy, dizzying sense of interconnectedness between past and future, and for that, I thank you.

:)

MadameZ said...

What a fantastic post.

Mother of Invention said...

I wasn't able to have kids due to diabetic crap, but I've often wondered what they would have looked and been like. Guess I can always envisage them as perfectly behaved and hugely successful, eh? HA! Well, they'd likely crave candy anyway!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Kids give us our childhoods back even while forcing us to give up our childish ways.

It has been the greatest adventure of my life and the one that never ends because the world will always be able to strike at me through them.

Your children are beautiful, just like you.

citizen of the world said...

What a great juxtaposition of parent/kid photos. PArenting is certianly not what you'd imagine, but I was also absolutely driven to give it a go. I can't say I regret it. Most of the time.

Glamourpuss said...

It is interesting to consider these things in the age of the individual. Having had little contact with my mother for many years, spending time with her now is a curious mix of remembering how annoying I found certain habits of hers as a child, and realising how like her I am. It's not entirely comfortable.

Puss

Jazz said...

Great post Joce, as usual. It almost makes me regret not having kids.

Bob said...

when our son was born, my mother sent me a picture of me at his age. spitting image. I was amazed.

he doesn't look anything like me now.

SQT said...

Oh my goodness, those pictures are cute.

My daughter looks just like me but acts like her dad-- the boy, just the opposite.

Weird how these things work.

chelle said...

wow. you never cease to leave me in awe. How you describe parenthood as it is, rather than as it should be.

Those pictures are priceless, your children are gorgeous!

Ann(ie) said...

This is a good one my friend. It truly does come full cirle in your mind. At about the 1 year mark of being a mama I had the epiphany that screamed...this is mostly about poop, temper tantrums and not losing your damn mind, not about adorable outfits and serene trips to the park. hehe. But, I still enjoy the hell out of it. On most days. :) xo.

Janelle said...

ah LOVEd this post...loved it. such great photos...! thanks! x janelle

Pam said...

Oh wow Jocelyn.Oh wow. How to describe this....wonderful on so many levels.Thank you for visiting me, and what a delightful post awaited me here.

Princess Pointful said...

This is such a lovely post. I adore the line about the jigsaw puzzle that makes an us.

geewits said...

And here I thought the purpose of having kids was to make us appreciate our parents' struggles. My daughter does not want children so she will never get to experience the horror of raising a teenager. Oh well. Really, though, this was very sweet.

cathy said...

Thank goodness! I thought I was doing something wrong...

... not black purple.

Kylie w Warszawie said...

Okay, I know this is an old post and you have all these super cool comments already and I usually don't continue to comment on people's blogs who have EVER SO MANY MORE commenters than I do, but this post made me both laugh and cry.

I'd been thinking about this same subject today. Partially because my little 'American' kids are growing up outside the US and there are so many things that they don't know. My daughter (14) has very little knowledge of all those silly little colloquialisms such as "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." My boys think that they speak something other than English or that they are English, or something equally as weird.

But through all of that, their experiences are similar to mine. I grew up in the States as the child of an American and non American and my non American parent would use colloquialisms that I had never heard and still love to this day.

It's amazing how it is all just a cycle.