“Kee!” I heard it, thought: “buzzard,” and accordingly lifted my head to see it. There it was: a tail like a tomahawk, light patches on the undersides of its broad wings. Gliding through the cloudless sky in the way that buzzards so often do. I thought, “It can see the big picture.”
One morning a week I take my children swimming. One has a lesson with a coach; the other swims lengths with me. While we paused between lengths, a mother approached the pool with her baby. The little girl, all ginger red curls and china blue eyes, stopped and stared at us. It seemed she could not do both things at once: walk and process the sight of two smiling people in the swimming pool, with goggles for eyes, waving at her and chuckling to themselves over her cuteness. When they finally made it into the pool, the mother asked my child, “And how old are you?” Nine, she said.
She looked at her own small child and smiled: “I can’t imagine her being nine.”
Nor can any of us when our little ones are only 15 months old. We don’t have the big picture yet. We are but earthbound creatures, filling our days with things that seem so little and inconsequential: changing nappies, playing pat-a-cake, pulling that lock of hair back into a little plastic clip again and again, kissing sore knees and bumped heads, holding our little ones close and making sympathetic nonsense noises. We get to the end of the day, stare at the pile of dishes that we are too tired to wash, lumber into bed, and wonder what the day amounted to. Our efforts seem nothing but ether.
Only when our children get to, say, nine, do we stop and try to recall what their chubby little hands were like; how small were the bruised knees; what did her voice sound like back then…? We find that the memories are ethereal too.
Where does the time go? In one moment, how can a 15 month old become a nine year old. And in the next, how was a nine year old ever 15 months?
This is how parenting draws us into the present moment. We live side-by-side, moment-by-moment with our children, never spending long looking into the future or back at the past. The days (and for many of us, nights) are so full, there is more than enough to occupy us here and now. I believe that this is as it should be because this now-ness draws us more deeply into connection with our children and with ourselves.
When our children are a little older, when we’ve risen into a cloudless sky, above the day-to-day minutiae of early childhood, we are able to see that all of those inconsequential little acts when they were small add up to rather a lot. Beautifully, miraculously, even if somewhat clumsily, we form a life from tiny, seemingly-invisible components. We take three molecules and make water. So next time you sigh over at that pile of dishes in the sink, remind yourself that those tiny ethereal molecules of your parenting life add up, form droplets, then rivers and eventually become part of the vast ocean. All that we do for our children, whether recognised or not, rewarded or not, appreciated or not, flows into this expansive, beautiful vastness. One day, we arise, and there it is: the big picture.
Copyright 2015 Lisa Hassan Scott