Wednesday, July 26, 2017

At Our Own Speed


At Her Own Speed
It’s a mild summer morning and we are making our way down the trail by our house.  G is riding her bike, and I am walking behind her.  My daughter is never in a hurry, a trait that I find both admirable and infuriating.  As a result, her bike is still adorned with training wheels; she can’t seem to pedal fast enough to keep the it from toppling over.   She comes to an abrupt halt and yells to me, “Mommy, we have to stop to smell the flowers.”  And so begins our detour, which leads to a discussion about pollination and the value of bees and butterflies.  We don’t have a schedule today and despite my impulse to hurry her along, I follow her lead. 
At last, she remounts her bike and asks for a push.  I keep thinking that as she watches her friends shed their training wheels she will be motivated, but when the topic comes up she says, “I don’t have to be like everyone else.”  And so she pedals on, at her own speed, with her training wheels keeping her upright.


HER OWN PERSON
She’s a kid who rarely worries about being like everyone else.  When she was two, her Kindermusik teacher said, “She really is her own person.”  When she was four, I attended parent’s day at her dance class.  Parents sat along the wall as the girls gathered around their teacher.  “Ok, ladies, can everyone be a butterfly?” the teacher asked.  All of the girls hopped to their feet and took flight.  G planted both feet on the ground and said, “I’d rather be a pterodactyl.” When her wish was affirmed, she joined the other girls racing around the room.  And as I watched, I secretly hoped that she would always be the pterodactyl when everyone wants to be a butterfly.  But even at six, I have started to see her become more self-aware and I want to whisper in her ear, “The pterodactyl always lives the more interesting life.”

It seems like I am always trying to get her to move faster.  But she is always happy to stop to investigate a snail on the sidewalk, find pictures in the clouds, or point out patterns in the sidewalk.  Having a child has challenged my compulsion to be on time; it has created an unpredictable variable that I must navigate. 

Our house is always a disaster.  At any given moment there is an art project in progress on our dining room table.  There are sewing projects, collections of rocks, and elaborate cities made out of blocks and boxes.  Everything has potential: bottle tops, egg cartons, the tops of dried up markers.  A solar system and a life-size recreation of the human body lived in our dining room for months. But I love watching her create; her process fascinates me so much that the constant clutter seems worthwhile.  She will hold up a new creation, beaming with pride and say, “I think it’s as good as a Picasso.  Let’s send it to the Met.” At six, she is a creator and an optimist, seeing possibility in everything. 

THE FINAL LUNCH
The 40 Lunches Project began with my grandmother, now 102.  If she is the person who had the most influence over my first 40 years of my life, then my daughter is the person who most inspires the next 40.  She challenges me to acknowledge my shortcomings and be my best self.  She has changed the lens through which I see the world and the way I make decisions.  

She was excited when I asked if she would be my final lunch.  In the past she's always wanted to sit next to me at restaurants, but lately she's chosen to sit across.  I like being able to look her in the eye when we talk.  I ask her where she thinks she'll be in 40 years, a question she finds amusing.  She says she'll be a marine biologist living in San Diego and that I'll live with her.  She turns serious for a moment and says, "I hope you'll live to be as old as grandmother, so that we can be together for a long time."  Me too, kiddo.
The 40 Lunches Project has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, but in many ways, it’s been for her as well.  Hopefully, one day she will be able to look back on all of these stories and see me not just as a mother, but also as a person.  She’ll be able to say that her mother had an idea, went on an adventure, and had something dynamic to show for it.  When I think about the next 40 years - when I envision what those years will look like - it’s easy to jump to the end while overlooking everything in-between.  But I need to slow down and see the possibilities, to follow my daughter's example, because these next 40 years will likely fly by.  
Thank you for taking the time to read and support the 40 Lunches Project.  You can continue to follow along on Facebook.



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