In the Sweet Spot
For six years I’ve been documenting my children’s lives. When I started telling their colourful tales they were just two and three. As I flip through the old clippings from the Free Press, where my storytelling began, I can’t help but re-live the anecdotes as if I just mopped up the messes ten minutes ago. The time Two smeared an entire jar of Penaten across the walls of her room. Four learning to ski, her adorable face flushed with pride. Endless rounds of Two’s patented Dingle Bells. Invisible pets and road trips and the day our beloved dog Jesse passed away. The questions. An unyielding barrage of inquiries about how this crazy world works quieted only by exhaustion. Mine or theirs. Both. Squeals of delight and sprinklers and cannon balls. It’s all there, typed out on yellowing clips of folded paper with a stamp-sized picture of my face at the top.
Last weekend we took the girls, now wise old eight and nine-year-olds, on a trip to Banff. A trip my husband and I had both done as kids, and remember vividly. The bustling main street, candy store, the hot springs and the castle on the hill. Gift shops with overpriced stuffed bears and dreamcatchers. We remembered. Reminisced. And then the weight of this blurry rush of time, the free-fall as moments become memories, the present becomes past, hit us both so hard we froze. Desperate to pause the clock as we watched the girls run through the lobby of the hotel. Still little. Carefree and unaware they should behave any other way. We took out our phones and snapped pictures. Posed for a family selfie, Eight reaching her little chin up to make it into the shot. And my heart physically hurt. Longing for a time I was presently living in. Knowing it was so precious and fleeting. I could see the future as clearly as I could remember the past. Marvelling at Nine’s rosy cheeks and Eight’s goofy smile in the photo we’d taken just seconds before. Knowing they were already different. Already older.
But time ticks on and our children grow and re-invent themselves as we watch from the sidelines. We want everything for them. All the blessings this life has to offer. Happiness and love and success and great friends. Laughter. Gut-busting laughter. And while every new stage brings fresh pride and precious moments, we can’t help but want it to stop. Or at least slow down significantly. In one of the first articles I wrote I revel that I was almost in the sweet spot. I figured as soon as my girls were old enough to use the bathroom and sleep through the night I would officially be on easy street. I laughed when I read it because a friend at the grocery store just said the exact same thing about her kids, who could now babysit and make their own dinner. A decade older than mine had been. So maybe all the spots are sweet. Each new plateau a place to pause and feel grateful.
Back at the hotel, we pack into a tight elevator with another family on their way to the pool. A little girl, about three I’d guess, is looking up at my daughters like Cinderella and Belle are right before her eyes. They smile at her, awkwardly, wondering what the fascination could possibly be. Her husky little voice fills the quiet space. “Wow. You girls are big. I’m sure you won’t poop in the pool.” She delivers this revelation straight-faced and with absolute respect. My girls giggle, looking to me for an appropriate response. The mom gasps in horror, holding a tiny baby in one arm and swimming paraphernalia in the other. She looks tired. Wants to laugh but can’t quite find the energy. The dad shrugs. Kids. The doors open and we all step out, going our separate ways. They are navigating our past, we’re speeding through their future. They want to reach the easier, we’re wishing for just a few more moments of the hard. But no matter how much we want it to speed up or slow down, time is a constant. Luckily, so is this great, great love. Happy Holidays.