Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shape Shifters

Yesterday morning, my last morning at home before leaving town, I paused in the hall and silently watched Rooster eating breakfast at the dining room table.

Her legs seemed to stretch further down towards the floor than ever before. She sat straight and tall eating scrambled eggs and buttered toast.

She was, in that moment, herself in the present, her former baby self and a shadowy suggestion of the woman she will become.

I tried to memorize the way her legs poked out of her pink pajama bottom shorts trying to freeze a moment in time, to hold this girl still, this shape shifter of mine, who changes so drastically, it seems, every day.

Like his sister, The Mayor is in a constant state of transition. With every new day, he becomes someone more complex and capable than the day before. I never have time to know the boy he is on Tuesday, because on Wednesday he is more.

Both of them live in a state of eternal becoming.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, with the support of a floating ring, The Mayor jumped off the diving board.

After countless practice jumps from the pool’s edge in water he could stand in, he steeled himself against his fear, and jumped from the board into the deep end.

Later that afternoon, when K and I weren’t paying the strictest attention, The Mayor decided to jump without the float.

Someone must have yelled or called out. There must have been some sound that alerted us but I don’t remember it.

I only know that in a single instant everyone at the pool turned to focus on The Mayor's small splashing hands, the only parts of his body that were visible above the water.

The Rooster was wrapped in a towel on my lap, but my body was in motion before my mind understood exactly what I was seeing or what it might mean.

I was up out of my seat with the Rooster halfway down, when I saw K’s body flying across the water.

I mean it, I saw my husband fly.

Though the whole episode couldn’t have lasted more than ten seconds, time warped and shifted as if we had watched the scene through a fun house mirror.

K sat at the pool’s edge with The Mayor in his lap. Five feet away, I could hear my husband’s heart hammering in his chest keeping time with my own.

The Mayor wasn’t at all frightened.

Our instinct was to remain calm, not to frighten our son with our own fear.

K calmly explained drowning to The Mayor who accepted it as a matter of fact and went back to using the ring to jump in the pool.

Last night, The Mayor, Rooster and I went for a swim while K shopped for groceries to get them through the five motherless days to come.

I watched The Mayor as two boys coaxed him out beyond the roped off toddler area.

The Mayor followed the boys, but when they tried to tempt him to venture out to water that he knew was too deep, he turned without saying a word and returned.

“Look what I can do!” he said to me, smiling.

Then he spread his body out across the water and floated on his back.

To the best of my knowledge, he’d never done that before.

His arms were stretched out on either side of him and his toes stuck up out of the water as his body bobbed and spun on the water’s surface.

He relaxed into the feeling of floating and let the water carry and support him.

I watched him and his suddenly dog paddling sister and marveled at the way that everyday is an adventure of self-discovery for them.

I bear witness dumbstruck with awe.


Patience said...

Children are amazing creatures! They are fearless until the time they are taught fear!

I love to watch them, listen to them. They always have something worthwhile to say. If we only . . . listen!

Stella said...

The image of him splashing in the water brought tears to my eyes! I cannot imagine that fear!

Rachael said...

How can our kids bring us from the deepest fear and heartbreak one day to the most amazing pride and astonishment the next? This story is a perfect description of what it is to be a parent.

TRS said...

That was beautifully written.

I once saw my brother fly in the same way you described.

Our whole family was at a hotel swimming pool. My niece (his daughter) was about 2 or 3.

We had all decided to leave the pool and get ready for dinner - but my niece wasn't aware of our plan. We all started to pick up to go - and she headed back down the pool steps.
Before we knew it, she was in water above her head (as soon as she left the steps) and my brother was levatated going to rescue her.

Crazy. Parenthood - Dads get the ability to fly. Moms, the get eyes in the back of their heads!

Anonymous said...

Waaaah! Crying. At. Work. Again!

I love this post. I got totally weepy at the thought of your fear when you saw the Mayor in the water... and then all light-hearted and smiley at the thought of the beautiful little people you're raising.

jakelliesmom said...

You have captured it all again, in an instant. The fear, the joy, the pride, the window to past and future.

Have a wonderful time this weekend!

Cat, Galloping said...

Fabulous post!

Trotsky said...

I often read this blog with a teary eye. It reminds me of the choices I (or the God of Genes) have made, lives I will never lead, and not to mess with OhTheJoys' turn as Snack Mom.

Today however, I was treated to a meandering bit of prose about the beauty of maturing youth, the delight of aquatic discovery, and The Mayor's first bout with Pool Peer Pressure.

And I can't help but think, (wait for it) "Why is she abandoning them?"

(I learned this subtle application of guilt from my mother.)

I'm hoping your immediate travel plans don't come anywhere near my house. You people in the South have guns...

Omaha Mama said...

Yes! Every day, something new. Inches grown in a matter of months. It is amazing and beautiful. I try to memorize it too.

liv said...

will be glad to see you soon, hon!

Laura said... heart is still pounding for you.

Lisa Milton said...

Your family, and the way you tell a story, makes my heart sing.

Thank you.

Jenifer said...

That fear is always there and somehow we keep on going. That story gave me chills not just because of the jump, but because everyday I try to freeze the memory of those pudgy feet and wide smiles and I know it just isn't possible.

Damselfly said...

"Both of them live in a state of eternal becoming." Gives me shivers!

Shannon said...

Oh my God, my heart was in my throat. Still is.

All Adither said...

Oooh. Chills.

Crazed Mom said...

Oh I think you have a fishy there. I was swimming across the pool at 3. I float like a cork. The fact the Mayor taught himself to float on his back w/o any fear is amazing. If he ever gets pushed in where it's too deep, he can always float. A lesson for when he can understand it.

Yes, young children change and grow from minute to minute. Isn't it one of the most incredible things you've ever had the honor to observe? It was for me a joy each and every day at some point in that day they would do something new and/or unexpected.

Have a fabulous trip!

Anonymous said...


Sorry about you guys having to go through that experience - I can't imagine the feeling of fear or how long it will take to go away.

Can I ask a question - what flotation stuff do you use with the rooster. I am trying to decide whether the swimsuit thinges are better than just armbands.

What do you think?

Thanks a bunch

Heidi said...

It's all scary stuff; especially the shape shifting. You never see it coming and then *WHAM* there it is.

You're left shaking your head and asking WTH?

Biddy said...

oh jeebus. we had a situation much like that happen a couple of years ago. i was in the pool, holding onto the edge while talking to my mother. my cousin's son jumped into the pool without floats.

i still remember the sight of my cousin flying into the pool, over my head, fully clothed, at the same instant i reached down at warp speed and yanked the 2 year old up by his little foot.

my heart is beating 5498516 times a minute just thinking about it...

Above Average Joe said...

Similar story with my sister when we were kids. In a flash my mother was into the pool pushing her up out of the water by her butt.

I dont think I ever seen my mother move so fast.

Bon said...

'a state of eternal becoming'...that was beautiful, Jess.

it is, i think, my greatest secret hope to stay in that state forever. i usually forget. but kids remind me. and inspire.

and i try desperately not to freak out when they blow my mind with their becoming, like the Mayor in the pool. yay you, for handling that so calmly.

kittenpie said...

Those moments when you suddenly see them with a fresh eye, how they are changing, are so heart-stopping, so head-spinning. I noticed just last night, myself, the long, lean legs that last month were short, chubbier, I am certain.

Sayre said...

My boy suddenly has long, long legs. But only if you see them without pants. For some reason, his pants still fit. Perhaps it is just the shape, the more adult shape as opposed to the somewhat pudgy kid-shape.

Mimi said...

Yes, oh god yes. When do their legs get so long? When do they ... stop needing us so much? Is it while I'm blinking?

Missives From Suburbia said...

Raising children is terrifying and beautiful all at once. I was ignorant with my son. I couldn't wait to give birth to him and hold him. Two years and several very scary moments later, I am begging my little girl to STAY IN THE WOMB! It really is the only time you ever know where they are, what they're doing and that they're safe.

Jenn said...

Dumbstruck awe.

Perfect words.

And my near-constant state.

Ahhh, mommy-hood.

Circus Kelli said...

I am dumbstruck with awe just reading this.

Kids sure are something, aren't they?

Cakabaker said...

What a great post. I'm glad The Mayor is ok. Children are fearless that's for sure!
And the fact that you handled it so calmly surely will stay with him when he gets older and has to react to something.

Anonymous said...

As I read your (once again) beautifully written piece, I was reminded of the day my SIL, brother, 2yo niece and myself were swimming in the bay where I lived. My niece stepped into a hole and went under the water. My SIL turned around when I called her (she was closer in the water), picked her up and said 'Look at you, you were swimming!', all with a big smile on her face. A lesson in how to save without causing fear.

Hope your babies don't do too much growing while you're away.


GoteeMan said...

THAT is amazing... wow.


Helena said...

You write so beautifully!

Kelley said...

Every single day I marvel at how much my kids change and grow.

Amazing creatures.

Someone should write a book or do a study or something...

Little Nut Tree said...

ugh... scary! *shiver*

Good for The Mayor. I would have dissolved.

Mr Farty said...

Beautiful! And a bit scary.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Nothing is as thrilling to me as watching my kids learning to swim. There is something about the danger mingled with their obvious joy that makes me feel almost giddy with emotion. But, yeah, the danger part, that is very real. Glad The Mayor was just fine.

sugaredharpy said...

Oh my!

My younger son, at around age ONE, just walked down the little steps into the three-foot deep pool and then just kept on "walking" when his head went under. I just stared at him calmly walk into his apparent drowning before swooping an arm over to get him.

I just thought he'd stop!

Momish said...

Very scary! I feel for you. It is scary to watch them grow and blossom and know that no matter how hard you try, so many moments go un-noticed. Not all of them dangerous or life threatening, for sure, but still... knowing all those unattended moment are happening keeps my heart in my throat!

Zip n Tizzy said...

So scary!

But what a wonderful way he turned it around.

You should be proud.

kellypea said...

Resilience personified, right? I haven't been by in a while, and enjoyed what I always have -- your writing. It never fails to help me remember my own boys' childhood and our own tales of firsts and near misses.

Amanda said...

This was stunning.

Ali B. said...

I remember the day I decided I was ready for the big pool and I stepped off into the deep end - the blurry blue above my head, the long arms reaching down to lift me above the water's surface. I learned to swim early, so I couldn't have been older than three at the time. I, like your son, was less frightened than those who rescued me.

Such a precarious world.

"Both of them live in a state of eternal becoming."

I think we all do. At least I hope we do. The other alternative, that we stop becoming, is to depressing to contemplate.