Monday, September 24, 2007

More, More, More


Over the weekend on "Prairie Home Companion" the incomparable Garrison Keillor was talking about the last week and its summerish heat, and about how when you live in Minnesota, you always have to wonder about days like these, Is this it? Is this the last warm day?

And you never know, do you, if it really is? If someone asked you, "Do you think today was the last 80-some degree day you're going to see until May?" you'd probably say no, right? Because it's hard to imagine, this dramatic switch of seasons we have here, even when we experience it every year. And it's especially hard in a year when the mosquitoes didn't even arrive until September (June-through-August insects! Absent until September!), and when it's been so warm that you lose track constantly that it's actually late September, and you keep doing things like thinking of the baby as having just turned one a few days ago (it was five weeks), like believing it's still pretty much the first week of preschool (preschool began the day after Labor Day). And you accidentally keep thinking, as Garrison Keillor said, that there will always be more. You think that right up until there isn't.

And isn't that just like what I said last fall, about parenting the last baby? About any baby, really. That you never know when something's going to end until one day it's done? And so you look around one day with a profound feeling of unfairness and loss (if what's gone is, say, the last lingering toddlerish mispronunciation, or that final nursing), or, sometimes, a deep sense of relief (the last night-feeding; the end of the colic). But either way, an ending.

And that fact, that little truism of life, can just about kill you, when you're watching a 13-month-old toddle haphazardly, like an airplane out of control, down the hallway in a fuschia skirt that her sister used to wear--one of your all-time favorites!--with bare feet and crazy baby hair. And can you imagine, that when you say to your husband, "Doesn't it just kill you, that this one-year-old-ness is temporary? Don't you just want to cry?" he says with complete seriousness, "No, not at all. Because I know there will be just as many wonderful things about every other age to come"? Can you imagine that?

Well. I suppose it's true. If today was the last warm day, that means soon come crunchy leaves and pumpkins and wood-smoke and geese honking overhead. And that's all good. And if that one-year-old baby one day grows out of the fuschia skirt and stops nursing and gets over her obsession with her baby-toothbrush (which I let her sleep with the other day: all curled up, cuddling with her toothbrush), well--won't she be just as precious and adorable at sixteen months, and eighteen, and two years, and--gulp--at three, starting preschool?

But don't you wish someone could say to you, "Hey, I know that you're sick to death of the whining, I know that if you never hear the words, 'Mama is dinner almost ready?' ever again it would still be too soon, I know the kicking and the slapping while nursing is getting old, but today is the last day you're ever going to hear 'yor-gut' for 'yogurt', so listen up."

Or conversely, don't you wish someone could tell you, "Hey, I know that this is the millionth night in a row you've been up too many times to nurse the baby, and I know you're sitting there thinking this hell will never end and if you don't make her cry it out you're doomed and if you do make her cry it out you're cruel and that's no choice, but listen: this is the last night she's going to nurse at 2 a.m., and before long you're going to have the two best night-sleepers of any kids you know, and this will be just one more thing over and done with."

Do you know what I mean? Wouldn't a little warning, a little wake-up call, make you both more immediately aware and present for the best moments, and a little more hopeful and calm in the worst? Too bad life is all about lack of advance warning. No one ever tells you if what's coming is more or no more. Maybe the lesson is that life is all about constantly finding the more in whatever glorious stage you're in, right? Whether it be the sweet-angel newborn or the heart-achingly adorable one-year-old or the brave, preschool-bound three. And trusting that the most trying things about being a parent will one day be no more.

2 comments:

Katie said...

Shannon - we've never met, but I stumbled across your blog via Elise, who was a prof of mine & friend. Normally I just pop in & read your blog, because I really appreciate your writing. But I had to comment after this entry because it was really a beautiful post. I think you captured your point so perfectly, it was really well done. I've started dabbling in blogging myself as a total experiment & writing practice & I know it means a lot to know someone, anyone, is reading & gets what you're saying, so I thought I would chime in. Keep it up. I'm over at www.thirtyandnotdoneyet.blogspot.com

Shan said...

Katie,

Thank you for your lovely, lovely comment. You have a good heart, I can tell. :) And it's wonderful to know that my writing has touched someone else. Thank you so much for letting me know. I will definitely check out your new blog!