Waxing Parentsophical | Swinging
We’re wandering around a Philadelphia neighborhood.
Earlier that day, Dave surprised me with a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for Mother’s Day. “I know you prefer experiences to things. So for Mother’s Day, you’re getting an experience. I hope you like your surprise.”
After our tour of the museum, we hit the gift shop. I heard Dave ask one of the staff for recommendations for a good neighborhood to stroll around. That’s how we ended up on cobblestone streets lined with beautifully preserved federal style homes. I thought, I wonder who lives in them. It’s something I often think when I visit a new neighborhood. What are the stories behind these doors? What type of job would I have to have in order to live here?
“Look there’s a playground! Can we go? Please????”
“Honey, it’s Mommy’s day. It’s up to her.”
He stares up at me with those puppy dog eyes, eyebrow arched, hand clasped in prayer. He gets the eyebrow arch from me. They say a baby mimics what it sees. They say a baby’s smile is formed by watching its parents. It’s a learned behavior. If they’re right, I say it extends to eyebrow arching as well. I used to practice it in my bedroom mirror. All the actors on soap operas did it, that eyebrow arch thing. I’d stare into my reflection and pop up my left eyebrow. At 12, I thought it was the hallmark of serious acting. And who knew, one day I might be a serious actor on a serious dramatic show like Days of Our Lives. “Doc.” “Roman.” “Doc.” “Roman.” It was serious stuff. Now, it’s just part of my repertoire. And sometimes it just does it on its own. Errant eyebrow arch.
Now his sister appeared at his side. There were two sets of pleading hands. “Can we? Pleeeeeeease?”
“Sure, why not.” I shrug. And off they run.
There are pregnant ladies everywhere. Babies in slings. Strollers. Our kids are so big compared to the other kids at the playground. When did they get so big? Why didn’t anyone tell me this was happening? This growing-at-an-alarming-rate thing?
My daughter is on the cusp of change. She’s been in her head so much lately. I understand to some extent, because I’m like that too. But still, I worry about that girl. So quiet, deep in her own thoughts. What is going on in there?
This morning she gave me a book of Mother’s Day coupons she’d been working on at school. It was funny, witty, lively and beautiful.
“Do you like it?”
“Like it? I love it! This must have taken you a long time to put together.”
“Yeah, it took all of reading. Well, and part of language arts too.”
“Were you one of the last kids to finish?”
“Yes. Oh and Ben. He put a lot of effort into his too.”
“I really love it.”
“I can tell.”
“Oh yeah? How?”
“You’ve read it three times now,” she said giggling.
I couldn’t help it. I re-read it again. As I read through, I could feel my spirits rising, the anxiety fading away. My girl was still in there. She may be quiet, but she’s full of life.
I watch my son. He darts in and out, weaving his way across the playground as if he had choreographed the dance himself. He’s light on his feet. Where did he get that from? When he was not yet two, we were at a playground and he tripped while running. Face meet pavement. It was horrific for everyone involved. I rushed him to the pediatrician who gave us an immediate referral to a pediatric dentist. “Keep an eye on that tooth,” she said. “He may loose it.”
Now his legs are lean and he’s gotten so tall. Sometimes I have to remind myself that he’s only six. We ask a lot of him for being so young. He gets himself ready for school in the morning, feeds the pets and does his homework after school. There was a time I feared he’d never talk, never potty train, never learn to read or write. And he’s done it all.
This morning he handed me a card he wrote in himself. No backwards letters. Everything in proportion. And there was even a drawing that was evolutionary leaps from the stick figures he usually makes.
“Did you write this yourself?”
“Daddy didn’t help?”
“Ellie didn’t help you spell?”
“Bud, I am speechless. This is…” I felt a tear roll down my cheek releasing the fear I had been harboring. This kid? He’s going to be alright.
I sat there on Mother’s Day watching our kids swing, remembering what it felt like—pumping your legs, putting your whole body into it until you build a rhythm that rockets you high in the air, making your tummy do somersaults—a soaring feeling somewhere between fear and excitement. It’s just like parenting.