Wednesday, July 8, 2009
When did I become someone else? or Which me are you looking for?
Dean is growing up. He just is. That our children grow and change should come as absolutely no surprise, given that we grew up ourselves from the children we once were. We know this happens. But to be on the other side of the telescope, to be the one watching the growing, rather than the one actively moving out of childhood, is an overpowering and unbelievable thing. Well, different sides of the same coin, I suppose, but going through it yourself really does nothing to prepare you for watching your own child grow.
I've been truly struck by the whole idea of growth lately. I'm surrounded by it. I've had a chance to check in on some blogs I haven't visited for a while and BAM -- I'm faced with photos of children I think of as babies, and there they are getting all big and grown up and I think HOW is that happening so fast? And here we are on July 9 and we've already had over THREE INCHES of rain in our area and I've never seen so much lush, tropical, intense growth before. The pot of tomatoes on the back porch is so tall it is starting to challenge gravity AND there are green tomatoes already. Astonishing.
Then I've got this whole other part of growth to think about and it's a lot harder. It's my own struggle with me, and who I am growing in to, and what I am growing out of. I've been thinking about what a very different person I seem to the people who knew me in high school from the people who knew me as a pre-parent career person from the people who know me as a parent and soccer mom. The thing about Facebook is that all those lives, all those past connections, come right up in front of me and I parade this whole mysterious complicated silly person to an audience with very different visions of me.
Bringing this all together for me was a post by Andrea (it's the June 29, 2009 'our dance' one -- I can't target one entry directly on her site) who had an opportunity to remember her past young self as a performer (that was me, too!) and who wrote, "...I remembered, that she is still me."
She is still me.
It's all still in here somewhere. Loving soccer doesn't dissolve loving art galleries, laughing at Phineas and Ferb doesn't prevent me from shedding tears over Three Cups of Tea. Disney World didn't replace Paris, it just got added to the list of favorite destinations.
So then probably a good measure of my mourning Dean's past self, the childhood that he's rapidly rising out of, truly is foolish. He is still himself, still the sweet person he has always been. Just a lot taller. And ready to take on more by himself. Which should leave me ready to decide what I'd like to be doing while he's doing that. So that's the hard part, then.
I believe that an important aspect of being a parent is in being intentionally changed by that experience -- by being influenced in who you are as a person by the person your child is. Again thinking of a recent one of Andrea's posts, she wrote, "Attention is the most concrete expression of love." By paying attention to the things that are important to Dean, I've gained new knowledge and new interests; I've grown as my own person in response to him. That's a powerful antidote to the feeling of being consumed, of being made invisible by parenthood. "Where did I go?" can be a mournful question, about what seems lost, or it can be a joyful one about where you've landed -- about discovering that new place and discovering how you don't give up your true self in becoming a parent, you just grow into a new self.