Did you know that my daughter is an amazing tree climber? Neither did I. We were out in the yard this morning and she asked if any of the trees were good for climbing. We found a suitable one and she hung by her knees from the lowest branch while my stepmom and I snapped a few pictures. The next thing I knew, she was waaayyyyy up in the branches and I was trying to keep the panic out of my voice as I called up, “I think that’s far enough, honey!”
Later, I held my breath as she descended. She came down a bit slower than she’d gone up, but with the same alacrity. I was just flipping through the photos on my camera and I still can’t believe how high she went. The grin on her face in those shots is about a mile wide.
Monkey–once my fearless acrobat–was placed on the lowest branch for a photo op and spent the entire time alternating between “Cheeeeeeeeeeese!” and “Alright alright get me down from here now!” Chickadee patted him on the back and told him it was okay and she’d help him climb if he wanted. He declined. Once down, he ran all over the yard picking dandelions for me and declaring, “Mama had a baby and its head popped off!” while flicking the tops off and giggling.
This afternoon my dad and I took the kids fishing. We trooped down from the parking pull-off to the rocky embankment and climbed down towards the water, whereupon Chickadee caught a fish on the first cast. We admired it in all its tiny splendor and then my dad unhooked it and tossed it back. A few minutes later she reeled in her second fish; larger than the first, but still too small to keep. She was delighted anyway. While the three of us fished, Monkey scrambled up and down the rocks, setting up his “house” and working on his “experiments.” He also upset the worm container several times (“But I didn’t mean to!” he always reassured us) in his travels, but for him the fishing itself held little allure. After Chickadee tired of it he asked for a turn. He held the rod for about a minute and said, “Grandpa, I think maybe you should do it now, I’m kinda busy.”
Inbetween these two gala events, I had the dubious pleasure of speaking to my mother on the phone in an attempt to set plans for later in the day. Communication between my mother and myself is not effortless and smooth. Today was no exception. I think we managed to work out my latest transgression to where I was no longer The Most Thoughtless Human Ever and downgrade it to my being simply Somewhat Rude, but the entire interaction left me drained. To my memory, it has always been this way between us. In fact, it’s not as hard as it used to be (though still incredibly taxing). We set our plans to meet for dinner.
Dinner was fine. About halfway through our time at the restaurant, while Monkey was discovering that he could slide down the leather booth seat with minimal effort and Chickadee was whining for me to puhleeeeeze help her with the word search on her kiddie menu, my mother turned to me and said, “Do you ever feel like it’s just too much and you can’t possibly take it for even another second?”
“What?” I asked. She gestured ever-so-slightly with a tilt of her head towards my children. “The kids?”
“Yeah,” she said, “don’t you ever feel like it’s more than you can bear?”
I stared at her. “No.” She looked skeptical. “No,” I repeated, “never.” And I tried to find something else to focus my eyes on so that I wouldn’t have to bore a hole through her skull with my Glare Of Disbelief. It’s no secret that we have very different takes on child-rearing, but still. I was floored.
I’m not a very patient person, and my children often drive me nuts. I often long for a break or savor my time alone when I do get it. It’s not that I’m some sainted soccer mom who lives to cater to my kids’ every whim. It’s not even that I think they’re the most splendiferous humans ever to grace the planet. They possess ample abilities to be gigantic pains in the rear. My daughter has attitude from here to next week and my son is prone to raising his voice to glass-shattering pitch during tantrums.
I lied to my mother tonight. Sometimes, I do feel like it’s just too much and I can’t possibly take it for even another second. But it’s not what she meant. Not what she thinks it is. Today, when my daughter stretched up to touch the sky, full of the pride of her newfound talent and the giddiness of her new vantage point, it took my breath away. Today, when my son scurried amongst the rocks with his perpetual smile, offering us all crumpled leaves and using an overgrown plant as his “utility seatbelt,” something caught in my throat. Sometimes, it is too much.
And sometimes, as I tuck my children in for the night, when they smell of toothpaste and fresh air and they collapse down into the covers as only a very tired, very content child can, it’s just right.