It seems parenting is filled with an array of emotions. Some parents talk about not wanting their kids to ever grow up. That's not me. I try to embrace the joyful moments as they come, breathe through the aggravating moments, and take breaks when I'm about to lose my mind. I have never found that any emotion sticks around for too long. A joyful moment, where the sun seems to shine just right, the kids are playing well with together and listening to the adults, will quickly be followed with a child's poop-in-the-pants-and-on-the-hands moment, followed by 30 minutes of clean up and cursing under my breath. A pull-my-hair-out moment at 3am with a teething baby will be followed by restful slumber and gazing at my sweet one, silent music playing in my ears at how glorious this moment can be. And the wheel turns.
With the recent flood of back to school posts and pictures on Facebook, I see a similar array of emotions from parents: sadness, anxiety, nostalgia, gratitude, pride, fear, and relief. It's nearly impossible to sum up the feelings of putting Sean on the school bus, or dropping Audrey off at her first day of preschool.
This past weekend we had the great joy of going to Texas to celebrate my Grannie's 93rd birthday. Born in 1922, she remains one of the most graceful, generous, fun-loving, and sweetest women I have ever known. I aspire to live a life as integrity-filled as she has. The weekend was an incredible celebration of Grannie and every family member who has been impacted by her, both present and far away. Without me forcing it, our two older kids wanted to give Grannie a hug goodnight each night before they went to sleep. Words cannot describe how grateful I am that they have an experience with her. Though those memories might fade, at least they have a glimmer somewhere in their brains of this woman who has meant so much in my life. How can I possibly put words to that?
During this weekend celebration we went swimming, boating, jet skiing, and tubing. I can not put words to the muscular pain I am in right now, given how long I hung onto that tube, pulled behind a jet ski, trying to match my brave niece, Mia, toe-to-toe, muscle-to-muscle, clinging for dear life at 35 miles per hour. My body is still feeling the ramifications of the fun we had. I rode jet skis by myself, and at other times carried little children on it with me. There were moments out in that enormous lake, when I felt the vastness of the Texas sky above me, the cleansing of the water below me, and the humility of how small I am in this world. How insignificant I am compared to the great earth we live on. A certain 'je ne sais quoi' as they say.
After coming in from riding on the jet ski for the first time, my cousin asked my nephew, Theo, what he thought of the jet ski ride.
Theo: I was scared. And I liked it!
That sentence has stayed with me. Both scared and engaged, risking life and limb, wanting to go back while also wanting to go farther from the dock, pushing the limits of speed, waiting to see when your body, mind, and soul will "cry uncle."
All these moments: parenting, celebrating my beloved Grannie, jet skiing, they are hard to fully describe after the fact. But if I had to put a finer point on it, I would say something more akin to Theo's response. I find parenting to be scary at times because I don't always know the answers, don't always know what's the best thing to do. I feel that lump in my throat when Sean boards the bus for school in the morning and as I walked away from Audrey today, leaving her at preschool for the first time. (I also felt a dizzying freedom, having only one child in tow for a couple hours. One child? That's so easy!) I felt tremendous gratitude and joy celebrating Grannie in Texas, but it was hard to leave knowing that I may not ever see her again. If I dwelt too long upon that idea, I would be despondent. And if I dwelt too long on the fear of getting hurt on a jet ski, I would never do it. Yet it's not just one emotion that prevails, it's this bundle of emotions. It's gratitude and relief and joy and sadness and nostalgia and anxiety and hope. It's exhilarating.