moments ago, my 18-year-old daughter, home for winter break and on a three-day babysitting jaunt, sent an emotive text. the contents, boiled down to a few words and some ‘high five’ emojis, stated this:
“got 3 kids off to school with no coffee so i’m treating myself to starbucks”.
“you will be way more prepared for parenthood then i ever was! #reality #hardwork #wortheversecond”
as i returned to the task at hand, a bit of social media chat and press (today’s good news, finding my very 1st book chosen as foyles staff picks this christmas, as well as a darling in the front window of waterstones bookshop, both in england), this mini-exchange got me thinking.
it is true what i said. i had zero clue about the whole conundrum of raising children, and as i’ve said plaintively to all three of them over time, countless times, i’m making this up as i go along!
back when i was in daydream mode, envisioning my someday idyllic life of motherhood, the imaginings that most beckoned me were scenarios involving reading peter rabbit books to just-bathed, cozy-cuddly, totally adorable tots.
still tucked up on my bookshelf amongst imported wooden pull toys from the early 90s is a complete set of green-bound beatrix potter stories, their paper covers long gone the way of teeny pb&j hands and chubby little mischievous fingers.
not once, once! did i imagine anything slightly, remotely close to: self-sacrifice, major budget strain, temper fits, lost shoes, lost books, lost homework, sharing children with an ex-husband, teen naughtiness, puberty and it’s snapping verbiage, slamming doors, car seats, the exhaustion of bundling up said sweet tots in layers of snow gear, loading cars up for college, praying the rosary on my knees as each of them took to the road as first-time drivers, clutching worry beads as they left for parts abroad in big screaming jet-planes, taking them far, far, far away from my safe, knowing arms.
yes, the reality version of this lifetime of mine certainly did look different from my sweet, early imaginings. the funniest of all? as i’d cuddle with one, two then three little darlings for bedtime books, i’d succumb to uncontrollable yawns by the third page! by the time my youngest child was able to read, she’d do the narration and i’d turn the page.
so, back to today’s little text swap.
it makes me giddy to see my three, now all in college and on to their own adventures, grasping the reins of what it means to grow up, take responsibility for themselves, their friends, siblings, duties, money, education, pets, hopes, aspirations, travel and tip-toeing into their own lives.
from my perch, a place where i conjured up a career in order to work at home (before the advent of the internet and cordless phones, just wrap your head around that) so as to be ever-present in raising her three marvelous, challenging, fabulous, sassy, beloved and so insanely wise children, the view is pretty darn perfect. each project, accomplishment, creation and now, book, has a bold, vivid wrapper that labels and entwines with our family life, too.
from my couch, warmed from the polar vortex of weird weather that whips at my door, i begin the sketches for yet another book of my own. london images float across my screen, and just within reach is a tome that offers me my very own night-time sweet dreams: the visual history of beatrix potter.
oh, england, thy name is music to my whimsies, longings, past and future.