Peering into the back seat of the minivan, I realize the inevitable has already occurred: my 20 month-old twin daughters have fallen asleep, the movement of the car swaying them into slumber. These impromptu car ride naps are sure to end early and leave them cranky for the remainder of the day. Possibilities flutter through my mind, solutions that don’t involve trying to move them into the house, a maneuver that almost always ends the splendor of no one screaming for a sustained period of time.
“Mom, can we go to the park?” my six year-old daughter asks from the back seat.
“Yes, I think we can.”
I lay down the rules as I drive through a residential neighborhood, weaving in and out of streets lined with two story houses and postage stamp yards, to the only park I can think of that offers me decent visibility; my daughter and my son, who is four at the time, must keep each other in sight and stay in my sight. Of course, this unexpected park fun should not end with the digging in of heels when I say it’s time to leave. All agree to the terms, so I release my tiny adventurers into the soccer field they have to cross to reach the park and watch them run against the spring wind attempting to push them back to the van.
They are an island to themselves, scaling play structures while I sit in the driver’s seat and inhale the sound of silence. It’s the quiet more than anything that is causing me to reflect on the two halves, the half in the car who need me present and the older half, not old at all but functioning properly while I stay where I’m needed the most at the moment.
This impromptu playtime feels like a major accomplishment after the six weeks of required bedrest while pregnant with the twins, followed by what felt like over a solid year of constant breastfeeding, diaper changes and nap rotations, all of which left the older half stuck in the house. Their playmates came in the form of construction paper and wooden railroad tracks, each other and pieces of mama reading snippets of books until one of the tiny little people cried out in need. During those days there was no quiet to reflect on. Fear occupied my mind on a more regular basis, fear that the truth can’t be so easily hidden: the ones with the most needs are bumped to the front of the line.
Concerns like shadows followed me in those days, and they took the form of the olders resenting the youngers, everyone eventually resenting me, each half seeing the other as an intrusion, a thorn in the side of their lives.
In an unexpected twist, all things were made right while I was worrying about everything going wrong. The challenge of a difficult pregnancy, a break-neck first year after the twins’ birth, the shredding of my time into pieces that felt too small to create even a patchwork of meaning gave the olders everything I always hoped they’d have: confidence in their own abilities, a commitment to work together, sympathy for others.
Everything I thought would break them gave them wings.
Viewing my oldest daughter, who is comprised mostly of spindly arms and legs, lanky, thin lines against a backdrop of kiddie climbing walls and two story houses, I see her fearless passion as she climbs to the top of the climbing structure and swings, harnessed only by her hands and tiny feet. I resist the urge to yell a warning, a cautionary “be careful” or “not so high". She’s earned the right to set her own limits.
And my son, the explorer, exemplifying motion as he bounces and runs and searches constantly. He stays where he can see the van 30 yards away, but he is secure in his surroundings. Right after the twins were born, his little boy frame suddenly took on the qualities of a child giant. They were so little, he was so big in comparison. As opposed to trying to stay the baby, he grew to be the big brother. And it’s him who runs to me first, back across the soccer field, knowing he’s free to roam and also aware of his ability to come home.
Whereas with each child I thought I needed to be more, it was me being less, my inability to splice myself into four equal parts, that allowed them to grow. I see that now.
I didn’t push them out of the nest; they just learned to fly.
Guest post written by Kristy Ramirez. Kristy is an aspiring writer who juggles words with raising four kids, ages 2-6. She lives in Texas where she blogs about her family’s adventures at livesinprogressnow.blogspot.com. Her goals are to finish the novel she has been working on for five years and to love people better every day. You can also follow her on Twitter.
Photo by Looking Glass Photography.