Monday, January 21, 2013
What You See is Not What You Get
A week of hacking coughs, chills, general malaise, and time spent communing with the couch, leaves me on the road to recovery yet still weakened emotionally. My brain was too foggy to do much writing, so I did a lot of tv watching instead.
And by watching, I mean judging and railing and growing increasingly despondent. You see, big doses of reality tv tend to put me in a snit. When I'm in a snit, I get a certain look on my face and am apt to say ungenerous things or let bitterness take root, which I know is not healthy. Other common times these snits occur are when we're out and about and I see a child in a dangerous situation, such as a four year old standing on the headrest and hanging out of her her dad's jeep sunroof while he does donuts in a gravel parking lot. You know, stuff like that.
Margaret will see my eyes widen and will look at me and say, "Don't say it Mom..." Which means, don't say with the deepest of annoyingly melodramatic sighs, "He is putting her life in danger, and yet that little girl will be fine. Just fine!" And it's not that I'm saying I want harm to come to the little girl, or any of the kids I see doing crazy-ass shit on a daily basis, I just want our boy back.
Reality tv on my sick bed gave me FAR MORE than my normal exposure level of people behaving badly. I got to see dance moms fighting with each other, while their little girls got screamed at by a megalomaniac dance teacher. I got to see Kardashians, who could do so much good in the world with all of their resources, yet they just kept on being Kardashians. I saw parents either beating up on their children or neglecting them entirely on one of those new nanny shows. Sigh. Rail. Repeat. Try to pluck the bitter seedling poking through the earth saying, "Why Jack?"
Six days in, I dug out our family home movies and began watching those instead. Which was almost more than I could take. We've seen short clips of the kids taken from our cameras and phones, so I thought I could handle the movies. But these were hours-long recordings of birthdays and snow days and random Wednesdays and Christmases in such slow, real time, that only a parent and the children in the movies could ever want to watch them. I had not seen most of these moments since the time that we lived them.
The adorable movies gave me so much more than the many photos I've pored over for the last year have. Little voices. Earnest looks, hearty laughs and naked jumping on the bed (kids only). Slobber, bath time, scavenger hunts, serious discussions about "twains," and a sibling relationship that was so close I am still unable to describe it.
And much like with reality tv, I just couldn't stop watching. I laughed so much, but I could feel my heart break again.
For there was that regular missing and yearning, that every parent has upon watching the baby fat disappear and hearing "lello" eventually turn to "yellow." Of onesies giving way to corduroys to sports uniforms and eventually cargo shorts. It's misery, that tick ticking of the clock even though it brings with it fewer crusty noses, much-needed time for Mommy, and greater independence for the little ones, which should be our goal as we raise citizens of the world. We really do miss it when it's gone.
I'm not trying to romanticize baby and toddlerhood. Heck no. The out of style scrunchie on my wrist, baggy misshapen clothes, and slightly crazy look in my eyes in a lot of those movies hinted at sleep deprivation and long, long (did I say long???) days at home with the kids. We miss it, we miss their little selves, but we know that hard, precious time was but a moment, a step. A step that got us here. And here is where they are supposed to be now, even if it means facial hair, smelly shoes, and a big dose of 'tude.
Except when through terrible evil, baffling circumstances, or a loving God's inscrutable plan, "HERE" is not where they are any more.
And we are left with movies and memories, and most days, hope.