Yesterday morning I sat on the low, stone wall at the local park where my son's school holds their end-of-year talent show. I was early--45 minutes early, to be exact. But I dropped L. off and rushed over to the park so I could get the best seat--the same spot where we have parked ourselves now for five different years, and watched all the kids perform songs and dances, and where I have always--every year--smiled and clapped through that big lump in my throat. Scott was going to be a little late, since he had to drop T. off at school and I saved him a seat, draping our towel across two spots next to me.
I had a lot of time to wait, and having a lot of time made me think and remember. I thought about and remembered last year's talent show, the first one L. truly participated in (there were years when he just sat off to the side, disinterested, or in protest, or overwhelmed by it all). And I thought about and remembered how last year T. came to the show, too, just as she had done every year. The first year, when L. was in kindergarten, we pushed T.'s stroller over the bumpy grass to that spot on the wall. T. was just four months old. Last year, when she was five, she sat next us and munched on some crackers and she smelled like sunscreen and shampoo. This year Scott and I sat alone, and I thought about T. in kindergarten, doing her kindergarten things, and she felt a million miles away.
I can't believe where the year went. There have been other years that seemed to fly by, to snap away from us, like a kite snatched by the wind. L.'s kindergarten year was like that: one minute we were watching him at Kindergarten Camp, and I was swallowing down that hard lump in my throat and the next minute that lump was stubbornly still there, and I was seated on that low wall on a sunny spring day just like yesterday, watching L.'s class dance to the Beach Boys.
T. only has ten days left of kindergarten. Last night she sat on the floor in her room while I filled her tub and she read a whole book out loud to herself. I listened to her precise, exaggerated articulation, the product of almost two years now of speech therapy: those clear over-emphasized letter t's and d's and the g blends that she reads so carefully. I couldn't believe my ears. Surely it had been just yesterday when I watched her walk down the school hallway with Scott, a hallway so large it seemed to swallow her alive. Wasn't it just last week when she'd thrown a book down in frustration, because she stumbled too much over the words?
Sometimes I think of myself as a kind of Atlas in my world. Except, instead of bending under the weight of it all, I've got my arms stretched out, bracing us all against the passage of time. I dam the years, hoping I won't wish them away too quickly, or wake up one day twenty or thirty years from now to find they've rushed on top of us. There are a million and one reasons why parenthood is one of the most difficult jobs out there but what makes it truly hard and truly painful, I think, is how often we are torn in two and mended again; how often we have to swallow that hard lump, the one that's part-pride, part-wistful sadness, part-fear, part-joy and we celebrate and mourn and love and fear and worry and move on to the next big thing, knowing all the while that time will too.