Play "cooking" with your Great-Grandma Rogers
Studying the flower garden at your first pre-school. I always loved your dimply chubby little hands so much.
It's a gloomy day today---54 degrees, drizzly, and just not a great time to be outside. So we drove to the farm that's about 30 minutes away so we could get a few bottles of fresh milk, which you love. You always want to put the coins in and fill up the bottles yourself.
Now that we're back you have your friend, Mila, over to play for the day. And while you both entertain each other and play-act and giggle your little hearts out, I am using the time to clean out my "craft closet". I say craft, but that's really just a nice way to put "closet in which all the junk gets put until it's time to move." And when we open the door and it all falls out on our heads.
Going through this closet is no mean feat---it's a full day's work at least. (Obviously writing here is break time for me). It is just chock full of stuff that shouldn't have been saved-----paid bills, scraps of paper, old string I thought I might use one day (??), Christmas letters from acquaintances we don't really know that well, etc. In short, no fun. Only occasionally, do I run across something that can be legitimately called "craft" stuff. Scissors, yarn, stickers, stamps.....all that.
But I am running across other things too, things which are far more precious, and things I should have found a better place for than in that closet. And these things are both wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. Wonderful because they have to do with you.....memories of you, pictures of you, keepsakes for you. Heartbreaking because these things have reminded me once again how fast you're growing up and how much time I squandered not recognizing that. Some of the things, like the little clip of hair from your first hair cut, framed in a card, make me giggle--- remembering how you just would not hold still for the hairdresser. Your little bobble-head kept turning back and forth as your eyes kept looking for anything to stare at other than your own face in the mirror. Apparently you weren't as in love with your little face as I was. ;)
Other things have just brought tears to my eyes. Like your earlier photos. Looking at the pictures of your toddler self is hard. For one, I think I spent more time taking pictures of you than I actually did DOING things with you. I spent so much time snapping the camera that there was very little time spent in just getting to know you. Or at least it feels that way. Your toddlerhood is a blur in my mind and not nearly as clear at the photographs. I wish I'd taken fewer photos and played more games instead.
The second reason I'm feeling sad about them is that they remind me of my own impatience. I don't know if it was because you were my first and only and I didn't know better and I was just trying to be perfect and efficient, or whether it was something else altogether, but I do remember being way too impatient. I was impatient for you to hurry when you were toddling along on your chubby legs, impatient for you to hurry and spit your words out when you were learning to talk, impatient for you to listen instead of repeatedly getting into things I told you not to. I remember snapping at you for getting into drawers I'd told you not to get into, and I remember snapping at your for hanging on my leg when I was busy and couldn't pick you up. I remember one time in particular when we were visiting a friend's house and I'd told you twice to not play with their window shades but then caught your little chubby hands headed right back for those shades as soon as my back was turned. I snapped so harshly that you turned to me and began crying. I will never forget that. I felt guilty and horrible the instant I did it.
It's not that I snapped at you constantly, because I didn't, and it's not that I don't remember cuddling you and comforting you and giggling with you, because, Thank God, I do remember those times too. It's that those things--the things I'm not proud of-- tend to stick in my mind. The things I feel guilty about are the memories I don't want to keep, but they're also the ones that won't go away. Perhaps that's for a good reason. Perhaps that's my conscience reminding me to be more patient and more vigilant with the priceless hours. Either way, I wish I'd learned faster. I wish I could have somehow known before you were born that I would have to change my pace. Instead, I had to learn the hard way. I wish I'd known that those days would fly by, and that walking slowly with you, even when I was in a hurry, would have been worth the time it took. Being late for anything at all would have been worth the pleasure of watching you wobble along on your funny little legs. It was ok for you to take your time. And it was ok for you to learn at your own pace. Instead of snapping "No!" when you headed toward things you should not have been touching, I should have found something better to distract you with and I should have enjoyed watching you explore instead of considering it a nuisance. It was alright for you to take your time learning to speak---I should have listened more to what you had to say in the way you wanted to say it. I should have spent less time saying "Not now." and "I'll play with you later."
I will always regret that. Every moment with you was and is precious. It took me a few years to learn that, and the years I wasted trying to be a perfect mother are the years that I was anything but. I know a little better now. I'm still not perfect and I still make mistakes, but I love you enough to keep trying. I only hope that when you're grown up, it will be the good memories of your childhood that you keep.
From now on I'll try to look more at the here and now and less at the future. I'll continue to enjoy watching you grow up and I'll continue to try to let you do it at your own pace. I'll worry less about cleaning the house and try to enjoy making a mess with you more often. We're in the middle of your summer break and I have to tell you that I love waking up and getting breakfast with you every day. We don't have that luxury during the school year when we really do have to hurry. So I'll continue to enjoy what I've been loving for weeks now----spending time with you, going to the market with you, listening to the stories you make up, watching the movies you love and eating popcorn with you, listening to you laugh. This is way better than any photo.
I love you, Caroline.