Two years ago, I wrote a post called "On Growing Up." Like so many things I've written, it's about raising a child during my early adulthood, and the realities of what, exactly, I can offer him.
In it I wrote,
"In all honesty, I'm still in a primitive state of adulthood. When it comes to not only parenting and (especially) marriage, but life in general, the leaves fall off trees and I wonder if they'll ever grow back. I have the experience, the perspective, of a 25 year old — and that's okay. I'm okay with that. I still have to live through more of life's many, many cycles — the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the dark times that feel insurmountable yet you somehow come out on the other side."
I knew that I didn't have the life-developed wisdom that I'd need as a mother, but I also knew that he didn't need what a 10- or 15-year-old kid would need from a parent. He needed love, nurturing, imagination. He needed someone to kiss boo-boos, sing the ABCs, and read bedtime stories with silly, dramatic voices.
And that? That I could do.
I might have been young — growing into myself as a woman, learning life lessons, developing my ideas — but I had time for the serious parenting lessons. The question was always in the back of my mind, though: Will I be ready when the time comes? Will I be enough of an adult, a woman, to raise a good man?
"What will Kindergarten be like?," he asks from the back seat.
Sometimes I feel like I should have put together a stop-motion progression of my view from the driver's seat. I must have glanced back to answer a question/retrieve a toy/smile at a sleeping child ohhhhhh maybe 23,000 times by now. And each time his legs reach a little further from the edge of his car seat, his head lands a little higher, his questions get a little deeper.
Today is just another day of glancing in the back seat to my car-riding buddy, and today he wants to talk about starting Kindergarten — the next stop on the Childhood Experience Express.
And behind the chatter about rug time and round tables and reading, my brain is processing what Kindergarten will mean to me: Room mother responsibilities, spelling word quizzes, new friends, hurt feelings, big kids on the playground teaching him inappropriate things, etc. His best friend, a little girl in 1st grade, was bullied on the school bus in Kindergarten. Heck — I remember the "big kid" conversations and Salt-n-Pepa song lyrics I was exposed to in elementary school.
Am I ready to handle this?
Am I enough, yet?
I feel different. Maybe it was a quarter-life crisis or a development in my frontal lobe — or, most likely, it was the crap-load of life experiences I've been wading through over the last five years. I've been growing up, as we all do in our 20s.
It's easy to say that being a young mother helped shift my perspective and gave me a reason to grow up, but the truth is that it's impossible to isolate that one experience from the whole. I'm undoubtedly sure that it contributed in a giant way — as did the friends who unexpectedly popped up in my life, the lessons I've learned in a young marriage, the colleagues I've worked with, the stories I've read, the very basic day-in and day-out moments. All of this collides and commingles into a gentle rumble of change — the sound becoming a louder, soothing sort of reminder that I'm settling into a person I'm proud to be. Or at least comfortable to be, which is a monumental improvement to my 22-year-old self.
I'm not the only one who's changing.
He's starting to read.
He has questions about death and pain and animal cruelty. He so badly wants to save the world with his superhero determination and sweet naivety.
He gets his feelings hurt at school and uses his "big boy voice" without mommy around to feed him lines.
And I've heard his own sort of rumbles while he's sleeping, growing, thinking, developing — the sound becoming a louder, incessant reminder of my initial question:
Am I ready?
Can I offer him enough?
Am I enough, yet?
We're laying in his toddler bed, crammed side-by-side among stuffed friends and baby blankies. His feet almost reach the bottom of the bed and I know it's about time to upgrade to a bigger mattress for his bigger body. A dim nightlight casts shadows on his smiling face, and for a split moment it looks like he's morphed into a 15-year-old boy. And then, as fast as I saw it, he's back to his preschool self. Smiling. Stroking my face with his still-tiny fingers.
"I love you, mommy," he sighs, closing his eyes. And his exhale breathes a very clear message: You are enough.
I am enough.
I always have been. And as long as I continue to hear the vibrating rumbles of change and progress, I always will be.