What I am good at: changing diapers, bathing wiggly babies, applying Orajel to sore gums, folding onesies, breastfeeding, strapping beings into car seats properly, cutting melon into Rosemary-sized bites. I succeed at the day-to-day, getting things done. The measurable.
But we have reached an impasse. Where I am realizing that it is not so much doing things, but how I do them. Anthea has been easy, mostly because I have been there before (and not that long ago). I care for her with all of myself, with affection and love—but it is not yet difficult. Rosemary, on the other hand, is growing up. Every day, her face is less babyish and her understanding grows deeper. Every day, I realize that have never been here before.
I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about parenthood in this latest sense. Rosemary is a sponge, as they say. Not only repeating my words, but soaking in her surroundings and attitudes and all things intangible.
First there are my mannerisms. I am trying not to casually throw things (like laundry down the stairs, or tossing toys to put them away), because I tell her not to throw things. I am trying not to yell—it’s easy to just keep increasing my volume when I am saying, “Rosemary, come here, please!” as she continually ignores me. I am trying not to use the word “No” constantly, and only when it is really necessary (like to stop her from running into the street).
I am debating if it’s too early to put her in some sort of class this summer. They have gymnastics classes for as young as 18 months. And there is a Tot Hop (hip-hop) dance class at the community center. Obviously, at this young, it’s just a bunch of running around and a social outing. But, is it? I started ballet when I was 2, and I did it for 10 years. It was a serious passion, until I quit because I was too tall and had too big of feet. Not every little girl grows up to be a ballerina. But I can still arabesque with the best of ‘em. And it makes me think about the girl, teenager, woman I am shaping.
Do I let her drink too much juice? Watch too much TV? Is she going to break her arm because I let her be too adventurous on the climbing equipment? Will she notice that I make a point to hug and kiss her good-night before I go rock Anthea? That I read to her every day? That Andrew lets her pick up ladybugs and run around barefoot? What will she assume about us as people? About her parents as a married couple? What values must I actually work to instill versus what comes naturally?
And all of the unspecifics. It gets seriously overwhelming when I think about trying to be myself while also imparting enough wisdom and patience and love. Because more than anything, I want my girls to be happy and healthy and loved. And there is no specific recipe for that. It is in my hands, and I am starting to feel the weight of it.
Challenging doesn’t even begin to describe the task of raising a human to be thoughtful and polite and honest and good and loving. This parenthood stuff? It’s just getting started.