She spends 9 years as a Mother but then

My almost three year old is lying in my arms. She’s my very last baby and I feel her aging acutely. We are on the master bed watching Sesame Street. She’s singing along with Elmo.  And clapping. 

“What’s the letter of the day?” *clap clap*

And she’s completely naked. 

Her fine blond hair is thickening. And curling. Her body is lengthening. Baby fat is gone. A few mosquito bites dot her thighs. Her bathing suit tan lines show how much time she’s spent playing outside this summer.  

Oh my God. She looks like a preschooler!

Now she’s laughing at Grover. 

Real sadness is foreign to her. Her older siblings dote on her every move. She falls? At least two other people swarm her with love and kisses before mommy even blinks. I haven’t lifted her from her crib in the mornings since school ended because her siblings always get to her first. 

Now she’s somersaulting across my legs. 

She knows nothing of heaven nor hell. She knows nothing of life. Nothing of what lies spread before her. 
The social angst of adolescence. The struggle of achieving academically in high school. The apprehension of choosing a college. The exhilaration of a first kiss. The soul-blinding chest squeeze of true loss. The fierce competition of the workforce. 
Beauty. Self-doubt. Marriage. Divorce. Religion. Government. Employment. Taxes. 

She’s just in the moment. 

Laughing. And naked. 

I do what I can to protect her. Shelter her even. Give her a happy childhood to reflect back on when life finally dumps on her. But my time is limited. 

Watching her age is different than when my eldest was this age. I’ve had time to reflect. Practice. Change my style. Correct mistakes (Sorry, Jack). The journey through our parenting years is certainly a soul-shaping mind-bender. 

Yet, after 9 years as a mom, I still don’t know if I’m doing the right things. Sit and talk with adults and many of them either have strained relationships with their parents or none at all due to some issue the offspring has with the way they were raised. What if that happens to me?

So I still feel inadequate at times. 

An imposter in the game of motherhood. 

How do I instill in her everything she needs to be a successful adult?

Even worse, how do I face myself when she is an adult dealing with issues I failed to address during her childhood?

Surely someone else is far more equipped than I to raise this tiny human, so full of happiness and light. 

The pressure not to screw her up bubbles like a lidded pot on high.

Aging hands, Aging Souls

The slow aging of our children makes us acutely aware of our own progression of life. Our own mortality. 

The slow aging of our very last child creeps the nail ever more definitively towards our coffin. 

They learn to crawl, our bodies spread. 

They learn to walk, our legs begin to ache. 

They learn to talk, our voices mellow out and become stronger, more confident. 

And their hands….especially their hands….their hands learn to manipulate larger objects while ours learn to finely tune loving caresses. 

I often notice people’s hands. 

I’m drawn to them. 

Just like faces, hands age as life takes its toil and their appearance silently displays someone’s inner story. Strength. Fragility. 

Determination. 

The hands of my friends in their mid-30s and 40s have taken on a more mature look over the years that I’ve known them. Mine have begun to change as well. 

Gone is the plump thick smoothness of our 20s. 

We have scars. 

Skin is thinning out. 

Knuckles more defined. 

Lines are deepening. 

Age spots appearing. 

Weathered and worn. 

Those accustomed to hard manual labor are easily detected by now, betrayed by the permanent calluses and sandpapery feel of their inner palms and fingertips, with grime ground so deep even the harshest soaps can’t return the shine. 

Others are pristine, palms and fingertips kept soft over the years due to the activities of their own life path. 

But none of us escapes the aging. 

I remember my Granny’s hands during her 70s and 80s. 

Rough. Gnarled like a century old tree along a nearly dry riverbank. 

Fingertips always painted blood red. 

Arthritis prevented her from pointing straight, a quirk that didn’t escape teasing by immature grandchildren. 

I watched those small leathery hands feed hens and goats. 

Plant corn and water flowers. 

Fry chicken legs and spread peanut butter. 

Once, as a small child, I even watched those hands shake while chopping wood for her pot belly stove, causing her to miss the log and drive the ax head deep into her calf bone. 

She didn’t flinch. 

She just sighed, glanced at me and said, “Well……shit.” as those aged hands pulled the ax head out, blood pooling down her leg, turning her white ked sneaker a dark mottled scarlet. 

Surprisingly, of all the hands I’ve known, I associate those gnarled, leathery aged hands with “strength” because of that one moment. 

And I thought of all this while watching a friend’s hands last night at dinner. 

Funny what moments trigger memories in us when we should be focusing on other things.