Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beautiful Innocence

My favorite part of every evening is when Reese and I sit down together to read books before bed. It is one of few rituals that has remained constant since her birth, and I cherish the rush of memories from past months when we would sit in this very chair doing this very thing. Last night as we read through her selections, I laughed out loud as she interrupted me to finish the sentences. I thought about how much has changed since the days when my request for an “oink” or a “moo” was met only with a blank stare. I marveled at what a beautiful blessing she has been to our lives and how wonderfully perfect she is. At that very moment, almost as if on cue, she turned toward me, raised her little hand, and smacked me right in the face.

The incident led to an immediate time out and, thus, and abrupt end to story time. Afterwards I finished helping her get ready for bed and as I tip-toed away from her dark room, a single tear fell onto my shirt. All parents (and many non-parents) are aware that the toddler years are a stereotypically tough time. Reese turned two exactly one month ago, and defiance and destruction occur with increasing frequency around our house. The challenges of motherhood have reduced me to tears before, but last night was different. I wasn’t crying because I was exhausted or frustrated or because she hurt my feelings (ok, that was part of it), or because I was worried that I was doing something wrong as a mom. Last night was about confronting the realization that my relationship with Reese has entered a big transition.

Until recently, my primary role with her has been purely nurturing. My main responsibilities were to provide her with constant love and help her build a sense of trust and security. Even in her second year when I started guiding her behavior and telling her no, it was always more of a gentle reminder than a firm demand. As her investigative nature and destructive curiosity progress, the need for more and more guidance has altered the nature of many of our interactions.

It saddens me to think that we have entered a realm where the ebb and flow of conflict and harmony is now a permanent fixture. I experienced similar feelings the last time I felt her kick me from inside, the last time I nursed her, the last time she fit into each clothing size – each transition serving as another reminder that every part of our lives exist in the present only for a brief moment in time.

That realization, although sad at times, motivates me to cherish even seemingly negative moments. Someday “the time Reese smacked me during story time” will be a fond memory of the beautiful innocence I will someday miss very much. It is the same innocence that causes the six-month-old to eat a dust bunny, the twelve-month-old to overturn a bowl of applesauce, the eighteen-month-old to dip her watermelon in ketchup, and the two-year-old to test mom’s reaction to a sudden smack.

As we venture deeper into the age of the “terrible two’s” over the next few years, I hope I remember all the other phases of life I swore I would never miss until the day I realized they were over. I hope I don’t fall into the common mindset of thinking of this as a terrible time, but as a time of tremendous growth for Reese and for us as parents – growth in self-control, patience, understanding, compassion, and grace. Even on the difficult days - when the walls are covered in crayon or the floor is covered with applesauce or you’ve been jolted from a peaceful moment by a swift slap in the face, remember that it will make for a funny story and a fond memory of a time of undeniably beautiful innocence.

No comments:

Post a Comment