I’m with my kids at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. It’s one of those perfect Sausalito spring days. Crisp but not too chilly, breeze coming in off the water, birds wheel overhead.
It’s been a challenging week. My son has been up a lot in the night, so we’re all under rested.
But it’s more than that. Lately, I’ve been struggling with the schlep, as my yiddish grandmother would say. It’s not over the top, what I do. We live with extended family, so I’ve got tons of support. It’s small stuff. Chauffeuring and pickups, all the running around, various appointments, getting in and out of cars, packing and unpacking of food containers.
I find myself wishing I had more quality time with my children, and more quality time in general.
It began to happen around the time my daughter turned three and stopped nursing. I started to feel myself wanting a little more of my own space. More time to dream and plan. More time with my spouse.
And also more time with my children when we don’t have to *do* anything or *go* anywhere.
Time to just be.
The farther I get into it, the more it amazes me what parents do. What my parents did for me. What all parents do, whether they intend to or not, and no matter how intentionally they rise to the challenge. The degree of sacrifice that parenting entails.
I think I really had no sense of what it actually did entail, until my children reached this age. Even in their babyhood, in all those nights of one or another children nursing frequently for years… Even with those three years I spent mostly at home with them. I didn’t really understand.
I got what it was in the day to day, the total surrender. But I couldn’t feel how it fits into the long term. How it feels, and what it really means to *keep showing up*.
It’s gotten more challenging as my children get older, and here’s why. As a mother of babies, I was pretty sure of myself. Once we discovered co-sleeping, baby wearing, nursing in the carrier, and other natural parenting practices, I had my basic tools. And I was confident in my choices.
How I felt depended on how much stamina I had. I was tired sometimes, and occasionally I felt frustrated about this or that.
But for me, it was never a question of knowing what to do. I had my mama tribe, I had my cave woman wisdom. I knew what my little ones needed. I knew it in my bones.
I wish I could say this was still the case.
But the truth is, these days, I don’t always know.
Now that my children are three and six, they are beginning to crash into the world in new and wonderful ways. They are coming into themselves, pushing boundaries, challenging some of the values they’ve been raised with (screen free home being the main one.)
They are ready to start exploring what it means to have their own money. And they want more toys than I feel like we can fit in our house.
This raises big questions about how to maintain our family culture while living in a broader culture with some very different values.
Sometimes we find we need new skills, new ways to set boundaries.
And sometimes my sensitive spouse and I just get frankly overwhelmed by the normal 6 year old hijinx and screaming, and walk around in ear plugs for a while.
Along the way, I have these conversations with myself.
Me – I don’t know what to do today. Why can’t I fix this?
Inner Self – Yes. You don’t always know. It’s okay.
Me – But what can I do?
Inner self – Just keep showing up.
Me – But I don’t know if that was the right way to handle that!
Inner Self – It doesn’t matter. Not your job to figure it out right now. Just keep showing up.
Me – I love them so much. I feel frustrated that I don’t know what to do sometimes.
Inner Self – Yes, it feels like that. Just keep loving them. Just keep loving yourself.
So, all of this is on my mind as we walk into the discovery museum.
As we walk through the gates, I feel myself relax, knowing my children will have a lovely time, and that I’ll get to enjoy being with them while also enjoying a little time to think and dream.
My children stop to examine a table at the entrance.
The museum has a surprise for us. Free superhero capes for all visitors!
Which gets my children talking.
“Mama, what’s a superhero?” asks Peregrine, age 3.
“It’s someone who has a special power. Someone who can do something powerful and special. Like leap over buildings. Or fly through the air.”
They put on the shiny green capes, contemplative.
“What do you think, children?” I ask them. “If you were a superhero, what would you be? And what would your super power be?”
“I’d be a raccoon,” says my six year old son. “A raccoon who can swim really fast. Did you know that raccoons can swim they do the doggie paddle?”
“I’d be a falcon,” chimes in Peregrine, age 3. “I’m the fastest creature on earth. I can fly SOOOOO fast. That’s my super power.”
“Mama, what’s your super power?” They ask.
I don’t have to think about it. I know immediately.
My super power is love.
Every day, no matter what.
Keep showing up.
Keep showing up, getting it wrong, getting it right, figuring it out, finding my way.
Talking. Listening. Loving my kids. Loving myself.
Through pickups, drop offs, big feelings and impossible requests.
The impossible requests my kids make of me, and the ones I make of myself.
Through it all, keep showing up. One hug and then another. One day at a time.
Because that’s what love does.
It doesn’t just sit there. It is made and remade. Anew. Every day.
Every way we humble ourselves. Every way we open ourselves to not knowing, and thus open the path to learn.
Yes, I know my super power.
“Children,” I tell them, “my super power is love.”