One of the main blessings of stepping back and reevaluating my life 18 months ago is that I have been able to spend a LOT of time with my children. We have gotten to know each other in a way that working 40-60 hours a week in a cubicle simply does not allow. I have discovered they are a lot like me in ways I possibly couldn’t have identified before.
Previously, most of our days consisted of rushing. Rushing to get up when the alarm clock went off. Not giving them time to digest their breakfast and rushing to drop them off at a before-school program so I could rush into work. Rushing out of the office so I could pick them up from an after-school program – only to rush them through homework and dinner so that I could rush them off to bed. Rush, rush, rush. There wasn’t much time for anything besides the daily stream of imperatives that was coming out of my mouth; an attempt to keep the ship running smoothly, on-time, and without a lot of turbulence. Fast forward to today and I really have formed a much deeper bond with both of them that I believe is so critical at this tender time in their lives.
Being home on a more consistent basis has allowed me to really glimpse into who they are as unique, individual beings. I am better able to identify their quirks, their personalities, their fears, and their strengths. It has afforded me the luxury of being able to be a better parent. I am more aware – and better able to be “in the moment,” which I know they appreciate. They are so deep, so giddy, so complex, so multi-faceted, and in so many ways – so much like me.
There are many moments and countless observations over the past year and a half that I am grateful I did not miss. Here is a small sampling:
I think about when we had to put our dog, Nubia, to sleep. The girls each dealt with it in drastically different ways. Brenna, the oldest, was devastated. But she didn’t want to show it. She wanted to be brave and she didn’t want anyone to see her cry. Her heart was breaking, yet she stayed up in her room and couldn’t bring herself to say goodbye, give the dog a kiss, or pat her on the head – it was just too painful for her. I think about when my grandfather passed away and I didn’t want to look at him in the casket because it just didn’t look like him and I didn’t want to remember him that way. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, I just wanted to honor his memory in my own way. I think Brenna was doing the same thing – she wanted to remember Nubia chasing a tennis ball in the back yard with her tongue hanging out in glee; not lifeless, swollen, and in pain on our kitchen floor. She is a lot better at life than she is with death. She is a lot like me. Then, I think of Shaylagh. Shaylagh, who tried to choke back the tears until they spilled out over their reservoirs and onto her flushed cheeks. When she let go, it was a deep, guttural, heart-breaking cry. Shaylagh is full of passion and emotion and she wants people to know how she feels. She got on the floor with Nubia and told her how much she loved her, that she was the best dog in the world, and how much she would be missed. And, she made sure to say an additional goodbye from Brenna. She did it with a tenderness and an understanding that was almost too big for her 6 year-old body. She might be tough to read sometimes, but she loves with all her heart and she will not miss an opportunity to tell you so. She is a lot like me.
I think about our trips to the ocean during the endless, perfect summer of 2010. Brenna can be truly contemplative at the beach. I think she feels at peace there, just as I do. She is very aware of her surroundings – the color of the sky, the salty smell of the air, the tides, the breeze. She loves to people watch, take walks, and look for sea glass and we have had some of our best, deepest, most revealing conversations at the beach. She truly opens up there, as if she feels a safety by being wrapped in the salty air. It’s almost as if she knows that the seagulls and hermit crabs are incapable of judging her. It is one of the places where her soul comes alive. I feel the same way. She is a lot like me. I think about Shaylagh and how she will spend countless hours in the water. When we get to the edge of the shore, she is off like a bullet – fearless – right into the water. It’s her favorite place to explore and discover her own abilities. She jumps, she splashes, she dives, and now she swims. Thrilled with her accomplishments and her freedom to be buoyant, we hear a constant barrage of, “Look at me! Watch what I can do! Isn’t this cool?” Her shoulders brown up and she gets that unmistakable hint of color that hours in salt water will give you. She wears a mask, and like a miniature Jacques Cousteau, she looks for underwater life. She plays Crocodile Dundee and tries to catch small, unsuspecting creatures with nets and her bare hands. She is tactile and imaginative. I was just like her when I was a kid. I would fall sound asleep in the car after those long days at the beach, where memories were made and a lifelong love of the ocean was solidified. She is a lot like me.
I think about sweet Brenna, and at 9 years old, I can tell a lot about what is going on with her just by looking into her eyes. Her eyes give her away and she can have a whole conversation with those eyes and never, ever say a word. One of these days, some young man’s heart is going to skip a beat because of those beautiful, multi-colored prisms that typically radiant happiness and sensitivity. Sometimes they are brown and sometimes they appear hazel, depending on what she is wearing and whether or not she has a tan. Brenna’s eyes – both in color, and in emotion – are a lot like mine.
I think about Shaylagh’s laugh. And her ability to make other people laugh. Her lilting, infectious laugh. A laugh that comes from her toes and the very recesses of her body. Her eyes sparkle, her nose crinkles up, her mouth opens wide and out comes the sweetest sound. She can laugh for minutes, until she (and all those around her) is breathless and satiated. People will remember her for her laugh – as well as her ability to make others laugh. She is a lot like me.
I think about their athletic abilities. Brenna is tall for her age and almost freakishly strong. I don’t think she will ever be much of a finesse player on the field or on the court, but people will remember her for her coachability, team spirit, dedication, strength, grit, and toughness. She plays what she plays for a love of the game, not necessarily the outcome on the scoreboard. She is a lot like me. Shaylagh seems to have been blessed (at least as of right now) with more pure skills. She is a natural dribbler of both a soccer ball and a basketball and she is quick and agile. However, she also has a temper and will not hesitate to elbow you in the throat is she feels she (or a teammate) has been violated in any way. Shaylagh is competitive and has a fierce desire to win at all costs. She is a lot like me.
Brenna has always been deep, contemplative, and wise beyond her years. She is a listener and an observer. She takes it all in, processes it as best she can, and learns and grows from the experiences around her. She is like a sponge. She is like me.
Shaylagh and Brenna both express themselves, sometimes best, through art, writing, and other outlets. They will try to work through their emotions by drawing a picture, writing in their journals, or pretend play. They are sometimes hesitant to say exactly what is on their minds – each of them is very private about certain things – but they will often let their creativity be a conduit for their emotions. They are a lot like me.
They are both steadfastly loyal, have a fierce desire to please, and their feelings can be easily hurt. They both love family and take comfort in knowing that someone they love and trust is close by. They are a lot like me.
Brenna is very concerned with her appearance and wants to be a fashion “do.” She dresses according to trends, and wants to have all of the cool clothing labels in her closet. She is just like me.
Shaylagh is a bit quirky, a creature of habit, and does not like surprises (unless they are in the form of a gift). She is a lot like me.
The girls both have a low threshold for rudeness and lack of manners. They will not hesitate to speak up when someone forgets to say “please” or “thank you.” They are a lot like me.
Brenna is non-confrontational, wants people to get along, and gets very uncomfortable when
people argue or disagree. She is a lot like me.
Brenna and Shaylagh can both lose themselves in a book and are regular readers. Their perfect ending to the day involves snuggling under the covers while some author or illustrator takes them to another place and time. They are soothed and enthralled by the written word. They are just like me.
I love that they are my daughters. They are a lot like me. Only much, much better. XOXOXO
(*credit to Tara Whitney for the idea to blog about our similarities – it will make a great scrapbook when I get around to it)