I was outside on a gloriously sunny, if not a bit chilly for my liking, spring day this past Sunday, pushing my little girl on her swing. As I watched her small body bob up and down on the blue and red plastic cradle, I took in the scene. I felt content, and for that I was grateful. It was methodical and relaxing to watch the rise and fall of her figure against the brilliant sky and zooming grass. Later we walked by the garden and chatted easily about where to till the earth for her children’s garden I had promised her this year. It was so nice to have her be old enough (three) that we could have a full conversation. The Children’s Garden would be a small plot for her (and her friend who was moving into the downstairs unit this summer and was nearly the same age) to do with it whatever they liked. I vowed to not push my own notions of beauty onto that little rectangle- letting her pick out a plant each week that stroke her fancy at the local farmer’s market. I would zip my usually controlling gardener lips. I mused about how we could paint a sign in the coming weekend to stake into that ground announcing to visitors her special corner of our yard.
I think why I share all this is that I had several very meta moments while these simple acts were unfolding- I was viewing myself going through motions of parenting I had envisioned before I was a parent, and here it was, upon me. I have had this unnerving feeling since I started this whole parenting gig that I should be doing something more with my life. Don’t get me wrong- I love that little bugger more than I could have ever imagined… she is so much to me. I also greatly respect people who parent full-time. Still, I was grappling with this whole identity business because suddenly my life felt extra simple. I worked, I parented, I had a humble social life, and I wrote a bit when I could keep my eyelids peeled into the evening hour. And then I did it all over again. I used to be a part of various political activist groups, take a painting class, be in a writing group, garden avidly, have a much more raucous social life, travel more regularly, and much of that had halted with such a sudden swiftness when she had arrived that it took my breath away a bit. I hoped to get back to those things as she got a little older, but I wasn’t doing most of them right now and I hadn’t been doing them for the past three years. But what I think I realized on that Sunday morning in our yard with just my daughter is that this is what I had envisioned happening. In my mind, when I thought about the early years of raising a child, I thought of spending a lot of that time focused on being a parent. I actually thought I’d work part-time so that I’d even be parenting more than I currently am. When we hadn’t been able to do that financially, my slice of parenting got ever thinner. In my mind it wasn’t “just” being a parent; it was being a parent. That felt like a lofty enough task and I had felt satiated by taking on that humble job for a number of years. I wanted to do artistic and political activities, travel, and more, but with my child. So there I was, plotting out a plot, if you will, and I was remembering that. Right, this is ok, remember, this is what you wanted. This is what you’re doing now. It’s ok. Maybe I think too much. That morning, I was appreciative to have a lapse of contentment for however long it lasted.