Saturday, December 3, 2022

Grateful for this Time

As I am sitting in front of the computer right now, Zoe has her back turned to me, standing at the water table and pouring water from a scoop held in one hand into a funnel at the top of a tower.  We used to do water table play almost every day over the summer, but she never was able to reach the top of that tower.  Some of the water spills and splashes down from around the top of the funnel and some of it flows out of the funnel tube in a stream and activates a small wheel, which quickly turns, carrying the water down to a tipping scale, which flips the water onto another spinning wheel.  Zoe watches this happen again, and again, and again.  She sometimes turns to look at me over her shoulder, saying her signature, "Wooww!" or "Uh-oh!", and something random, like, "Wash your hands!" and "That slide!"  She is fully in the moment, immersing herself visually, auditorily, tactually, proprioceptively, and emotionally in the repetitive, yet ever-changing task of scooping and pouring water from one container into another.  The tower tips and she asks for help, but then lifts it back into place by herself before I get there.  "You did it!" I say.  Leaves drift down from the trees as a light breeze blows through our back yard.  Zoe has not noticed this, or has she?  It's so fascinating to me, how much she picks up on, without our realization.  She whirls around and says, "Maaamaaa! Zoe!"  while looking at me, with a big smile on her face.  She must have thought of us while experimenting with the water.  She bursts into song, "Baby Shark, doo-doo-doo-doo!" without turning around, enjoying the bouncy melody playing inside of her head.  These moments are so simple, yet so intricate when I sit down and truly observe and notice all of the moving pieces.  Like water flowing through the parts of the tower, there is cause and a rippling effect to everything.  Everything that has been intentionally and unintentionally poured into Zoe, spins and mixes and comes out in ways that are totally unexpected and wondrous.  I am so grateful to be able to witness it, as her mother.

The Fall season has been a very special one this year.  Zoe is so grown up compared to last year.  We were able to take her everywhere--apple picking, the petting zoo, the pumpkin patch, trick or treating, and hiking in the leaves.  She loved all of it and it was so fun to see her plucking a low-hanging apple with both hands, placing acorns into her overalls pocket, ripping fallen leaves into pieces, and swinging her Mcdonald's Halloween bucket around while walking around the house.  The best part is that she remembers so much and will still be talking about these events in her own simple words for weeks, showing us that they've made lasting impressions.  She kept repeating, "apple picking" every time we drove her somewhere that wasn't daycare, so we decided that we had to take her again since she was asking about it so much.  When we went again, she remembered a lot of things from the last time.  She didn't need to be coached on how to pick the apple, she immediately used both hands and said, "Pull, pull!" and knew that it needed to go into the bucket.  She also says, "Pumpkin," when we arrive at Descanso Gardens.  And when she saw a picture of a man wearing a tight green sweater in a book, she said, "Alien!" because I was an alien for Halloween.  

Thanksgiving was yesterday and I had the whole week off.  Zoe started at daycare three months ago, and she has adjusted well, though mini tantrums at drop-off, uneaten lunches, and many consecutive days of a drippy nose are now a part of our reality.  Because I was off work this week, I was able to enjoy two solid days of uninterrupted, independent time until the daycare closed for the holiday.  It was so refreshing to be able to just focus on me, without the demands of a work schedule or a toddler's routine.  Even though I was just running mundane errands like returning items, having my pants altered, and purchasing a few necessities, it felt special and different.  I have never been able to check so many items off my to-do list in such little time and such little guilt!  Wes was able to get away from work for lunch, so we walked to the nearest burger joint and had a no-frills meal with the best fried zucchini.  Going out to lunch together was a pretty foreign feeling because our meals together without Zoe usually occur at home after bedtime.  Also, the last time we went on a walk together in the daytime was when I was pregnant and we were just a couple of idiots fantasizing about what it would be like to be parents.  Whew, we hadn't the slightest clue that having a kid would put such strain on our relationship.  I realized how much I had taken the simple things for granted before I became a mom and my life flipped upside down.  

Earlier in the week, I was able to go back to my yoga studio for a class with my favorite teacher.  It was a very warm homecoming--the studio closed in Spring of 2020 due to the pandemic and then when it reopened sometime in 2021, I was unable to go because I had given birth to Zoe.  I was sure that I'd never be back, but as Thanksgiving week drew nearer this year, I saw an opportunity.  My favorite teacher is fortunately still teaching there and when I saw her, we immediately shared a tight embrace, just silently acknowledging how much we had each been through over the last two-and-a-half years.  As I went through the steady flow of poses, I felt more or less as strong as I had been before, and that was reassuring for me.  My bones and muscles felt comfortable in my frame, my breath was audible and familiar amongst the chorus of others slowly inhaling and exhaling all around me.  It kind of felt like I had never left, even though the studio was remodeled and the students around me were all new faces.  I felt a lot like my old self physically, but at the very end of class during savasana, I closed my eyes and saw Zoe.  Mentally, I'm so different from who I was before.

As the feeling of Thanksgiving continues to linger into the weekend as it usually does, I want to stop and write down that I am grateful for the limited time.  Time goes by too quickly, but for me there is a hack to "slowing time down" and decreasing regret.  It's in the practice of being present.  Instead of being distracted by the many items on the to-do list and overscheduling myself, I try to notice everything happening in a moment.  My favorite times are always when Wes and I exchange excited glances when Zoe figures something out or does something extremely cute, and we're just frozen in place, taking it all in, trying not to mess it up.  Since becoming a mom, it feels like I'm doing only things that are most important, and while at first it felt bad that I couldn't get around to anything else, it now feels good that enjoying life is more straightforward and honestly more meaningful.  I am mindful of and grateful for these quickly passing days and I want to honor them by not fighting to fit things in.  I know that later, I'll look back wishing that I could get just one of them back. 

I'm glad that I was able to dedicate some time to writing this blog post, too, and that Wes has been lugging the camera out on these excursions to capture Zoe's reactions to the world around her.  I wish that there was also a way to capture and preserve the extraordinary little things that happen early in the morning, after daycare at home, in the car, while on an errand, or randomly over the weekend, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to be there for them right as they are happening.  

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