Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Motherhood Glances


When Naomi was five years old, someone gave her Shrinky Dinks for her birthday. Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? They were those annoying sheets of plastic-like-stuff which you would draw upon (good luck), then, frustratingly try to cut-up, and then bake in an oven. Well, one night Naomi and I did the Shrinky Dink thing and then ever afterward when Naomi asked to Shrinky Dink some more, I fibbed to her. I'd say, "Later, Sweetie. We'll Shrinky Dink later." But later, I hid the dreaded Shrinky Dink box, out-of-sight-out-of-mind style. And still, still Naomi would, occasionally, ask to haul out that mess once more. And of course, I would say, "Later... Later we will Shrinky Dink again."

Well, later never came. And it's funny, but some afternoons I'd tell myself, "I really should haul out that messy, awful Shrinky Dink stuff for Naomi again. After all, it was for her birthday. After all, she will someday be all grown-up and too old to even care about Shrinky Dinking. And someday, I will probably regret not spending more Shrinky Dink time with her."

Well, we never did Shrinky Dink again. And I did regret it, but obviously, not enough to ever pull out that box again, other than to years and years later, throw it away.

There are Motherhood Glances, and if you are a mother, you might know what I mean. There is a Forward Motherhood Glance and a Backward Motherhood Glance. Both are important and both can help balance-out this amazing thing called raising children.

I'm glad I most often used the Forward Motherhood Glance, the one which woke me up on days I took for granted having a little girl to mold and play and dream with. The one where I'd look ahead and ask myself, "Someday, will I regret not taking the time to ________ as a mother?" Very often, the answer was "Well, yessss..... I guess I will." And that simple thought would help get my tired, sleep-deprived self off of the couch so that I could go and make a Mom and Naomi Memory. Another one. One of thousands. And nearly always, afterward, I'd feel purest gratitude that the Forward Motherhood Glance nudged me out of the house or just away from my book or the tv or off the phone.

Now that Naomi is 26, most of my motherhood glances are of the Backward persuasion. Sometimes they bump into me, jar me, when I'm in toy aisles at Target--they whisper that Naomi's idea of a wonderful present is no longer a Barbie, a doll house or colored markers. Nor will it ever be again. Those days are gone. Yet, Naomi at 7 is not gone, not completely, because the Forward Glance used to tell me to look up from my crocheting and memorize Naomi, just as she was on the carpet with her scissors and her fabric and the dresses she scotch-taped for herself that year. Naomi at seven can never be completely gone from me now.

But years and miles later, with grey streaking my hair, the Great Shrinky Dink Debacle is one of the few regrets I find way back there in Naomi's childhood. It's right up there with the fact that we never took her to Disneyland, and well, a couple more such things.

I can live with those regrets. Now, in my Years of Middle-Age and Naomi's of All Grown-Up, I can live comfortably with the few things I let slide back then. They do not now knock me down and yell at me during my weakest moments. And my gratitude for the Forward Glance is pure and real because it kept my regret list short, and if I'd been listening more, the list would be even shorter.

The Motherhood Forward Glance nagged me to gaze ahead and then it took my hands to the refrigerator and gave me the patience to color and dye all those bowls of Easter eggs with Naomi... and the inspiration to take her on just one more walk and one more trip to the supermarket with her sitting in the cart, when it was easier to leave her home with Tom... and one more long car trip to visit her grandparents and her cousins. The Forward Glance reminded me that there would not always be a day when Naomi would sit across from me, swinging her legs beneath the chair, with a bowl of ice cream at the shop downtown, so we needed to go often after school. Just as there would not always be afternoons of buying a loaf of bread and feeding it to the seagulls swirling, calling around us at the park... nor would we always be snuggled into a tent, just the three of us, camping in forests far away on hot summer nights.

Now all of it is far away, all those memories, yet they are still close, memorized, too. And my glances are mostly all backward ones because Naomi is on her own and finding her own way. But I do thank God, sincerely, that these Backward Glances do not hurt, but rather, they are oh, so sweet, with only an occasional regret to mar them. And Today is all the better for having been kept awake by the Forward Glances of long ago.

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