“I wish I were zero years old so I didn’t have to know that happened,” J said when he learned about the Titanic, bringing home a picture book about it from the school library. The two of us were drinking hot chocolates together in a nice, cozy coffee shop because I was trying to do something good, and then suddenly we were reading about people freezing to death in the Atlantic Ocean and I’m thinking oh my god this outing has suddenly become more emotional work than I ever thought it would be, and that is parenting exactly.
We have crossed so many new bridges this year in kindergarten. Not only does J have his own backpack for the first time, with his own things in it, but he can get it on himself. Who knew such a task could be so acrobatic—this is how it went the first month—with a serious look on his face that said “I got this,” he would carefully put on the first strap and then his entire body would erupt into a wild-man-whipping-maneuver, flinging the pack up into the air where it bonked around for way too long, nearly knocking himself in the head, until he could finally reach it with the other hand and was able to safely secure the damn thing onto his other shoulder. Watching these early attempts, I experienced a strange sensation of fighting back tears while also the urge to laugh.
His younger brother, C, is now two years old, so I should probably not refer to him as “Baby C” anymore. He was probably no longer a baby the moment we were at grandma’s and I went to get him from his nap and found him somehow standing outside his travel crib, saying “uh-oh!” I secretly cried when, shortly after, I gave away that fold-up crib, marking the end of an era. C loves to play ball with dad and goes to toddler gymnastics with me, where he appears to experience pure bliss through the simple act of jumping around for forty-five minutes on different bouncy surfaces. It’s contagious and as a witness, I often feel giddy and happy inside. The first time C had ice cream, afterwards, he pointed to his empty bowl and said, “more brrrr!” When it was warmer out, he liked to pick tomatoes from the garden, carefully place them on the cement and then before anyone could stop him, stomp on them with his bare foot. Gross. Understandably almost everything he does makes J laugh.
The first week of kindergarten, J developed blisters on his hands from the monkey bars, and now, almost springtime, they have hardened into calluses. He knows true things about the world that make him sad. He colors little red hearts, cuts them out, and hands one to me, saying it’s a “love ticket.” I try and remind myself I’ve been “love-ticketed” and this helps to recharge emotional drain, my own rawness around parenthood, my fear of wanting to do it right, and I am able to have some moments of peace, to settle into the uncertain muck and beauty of life that expands us.