Friday, October 29, 2010

October 29

Our family is coasting right now, and I am grateful.
Coasting, coasting, coasting.
Our days are busy, but as the fall closes in on us they are busy with just life as it rolls, with nothing extra piled on top to complicate things.
In the mornings now, it is dark as pitch when Liam wakes me up. He crawls into bed with me, curling himself into a little breadloaf upon my belly, and we lie there in the darkness together for sometimes half an hour, dozing and snuggling and loving each other up until a little Fi cheeps from the darkness down the hall.
Liam loves, loves, loves his baby sister. The visible joy on his face when he sees her is enough to melt you into a puddle. He turns on her light and leaps into her bed, wrapping himself around her. She giggles, grabbing at his face. She is almost a year old, our little Fiona Clementine, and she is as happy and joyful and aware as she was from the beginning. I was just marvelling the other day that I don't think I've ever seen her frustrated or angry.... yet. She's still in that golden stage where it's all curiosity, joy and amazement. She scoots around the house, wondering at everything, yanking books off the shelf, sifting through their pages. She pulls down toy cars and manipulates the wheels, destroys block towers with gusto and whacks the blocks together, and picks up anything resembling a telephone and croons, "Hieeee, Hieeee." I love it that Liam is old enough to appreciate her for all that she is, and he just adores her. So from the start of that day, we go down together while our late sleeper dozes on, and I start to cook breakfast while my boy and my baby play with each other happily.
Aoife still greets us with her sunny SURPRISE! from the stairs, and when she joins us we eat breakfast together. From there, everyone plays until it is time to leave. Liam and Aoife have been treating each other well lately, and treating me well to boot. They have been getting themselves dressed, brushing their own teeth, and getting their own shoes and coats on as their token contribution to the morning's toils. This may sound like an almost no-brainer for a 4.5 and 6.5 year old, but the things is, I always like to coddle my kids a little bit... okay, maybe a lot. So when they used to lie there helplessly and say, Oh, Mimi, will you dress me? I would say, okay, my darling baby, and tack five more minutes onto my morning. One day I just lost my cool with dressing all 3 babies, and I sat them down and explained how much more time we'd all have to play before school if they could be counted on to slip into their clothes when they got out of bed, and take responsibility for their own shoes and coats (at the same time as I was getting myself and Fi ready)... this rung true for them, and they've been right on ever since. Deep sigh.
It's those little things, sometimes. I can get wrapped up in wanting to be that super mom, and in always wanting to be uber-available and saying YES to my children all at once. I know so many people who have fewer children than I do and do give them more special treatment and helicopter-parent doting than I am sometimes able to give my three. But then I have to remind myself that this is what I believe in: I really think my children have a gift in each other, and I also think it's okay for two such aged soldiers to be expected to do a few things for themselves in the morning, even when it means that they aren't really my babies anymore. The split always hurts, but everyone is always better off after it happens. I think this is probably because all of our moves towards independence usually happen when the child is well able and ready to be independent, so there's no battle by the time we finally get there.
My little Fiona naps so well, so well, every day. I still feel like I should knock on wood when I say it, but she naps twice a day for almost two hours and sleeps for twelve hours every night (with a few nursing breaks... well, maybe more than a few some nights). Our transition to sleeping apart has been so great for both of us. She loves her little bed, and I appreciate so much being able to actually sleep for 3 or 4 hours at a time without a wiggling, half asleep, over tired, irritated baby beside me. When I'm nursing her now on the mattress in her room, at bedtime and in the night, she actually will sit up and lean towards her bed when she's finished with her milk, and when I put her in she snuggles onto her belly and closes her eyes. I am amazed by this still and it reminds me that when we have different children no matter what our expectations are and no matter how we parent them in the end they are their own person, with their own preferences, and if we listen to them we will often be surprised.
And where does Charlotte fit into all of this? I muse on this, as sometimes so much of this blog can be retrospective, me using this space as an opportunity to connect to my past, and keep some of the more vivid, visceral memories alive. Part of where she fits in is to my work... my organization feels so full-blooded right now, pulsing and alive. The speaker I brought in touched so many caregivers (over 150) and that felt like such progress to me. The feedback I received about the presentation was phenomenal. And, sadly, there have been a number of losses this month and I have gone and sat with these bereaved families and known that I am being guided by Charlotte and my love for her as I hold their hands as they weep. Our meeting this month had an attendance of 19 people... a record for us and an absolutely overwhelming evening it was. There were so many tears, and so much audible relief around the table in having found one another. All of this work, each of the souls touched by the conference, each person I personally reach out to, everyone who is impacted by the group, these are all my daughter in the flesh, doing her work here on earth, with me as her agent. I love her so much for it. I love having her in my life, and having this in my life, because it feels so good to do good. There is nothing else quite like it.
And in the quiet evening, after the clock strikes seven, and the children are all in bed, I sift through the remnants of my day, pack the lunches for tomorrow, and try to clear the counter of the detritus of three meals and numerous snacks and homework and mail and everything else that accumulates over the course of twelve hours together. And in the peace of the evening is an even greater peace in having found peace amid what seemed like such an impossible situation. I think my happiness is based on my ability, seven and a half years out, to really see with both eyes everything that I do have, and to feel so awestruck that such beauty could possibly be born out of such intense sadness. I don't avoid the sadness, or the void, or the pain that still lives in me, but I don't let it define me. I let Charlotte define me, but not the aching, raw edges of the loss. That lives in me and rather than hurting me I let it fuel the joy. This is the gift of time and good fortune all wrapped into one.
I am so grateful for everyone.


Erika P said...

I am grateful for you - and your group. And, I'll say it again, all of your children are beautiful.

Hope's Mama said...

Thank you, Carol. Thank you for being you. And thank you for giving us Charlotte.

Ya Chun said...

It's nice to hear that you are content in life - inspirational.

Tess said...

The way you speak about Charlotte, how she has effected and guided you to become the supporter of so many lost parents. How you do see the void, the darkness, feel the pain and utter sadness, but strive to produce good...
That is something I can only aspire to Carol. Through your grief, you've found a joy so precious - thank you for sharing and being my inspiration.

Jenni said...

beautiful post. beautiful work. xo

Adelaide's Mom said...

So love all the pictures! Your days sound full and joyous. xo

kris said...

Oh they are getting so big. Aoife is the spitting image of you. What beautiful insight into your little family. That Liam is enough to melt me. Charlotte is present in that love.

Kimberly said...

All the talk of snuggling just changed the course of my day.

Thank you.

Pietrowski's of North Andover said...

This is beautiful! Thank you. Once again, your words are so comforting. Thank you!

Emma in Canada said...

As an Edmontonian, just have to say I love the classic Oilers jerseys!