Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's a trip

[Ur, hi. Remember me? I used to blog here fairly frequently? Sorry about the absence.]

Today is Munchkin's birthday. She's three. Fittingly, I woke up precisely at 4:30 am, the very hour and minute at which she made her appearance and opened her eyes to the world. Less fittingly, I woke up at 4:30 am because I am on the West coast and suffering from jet lag, twisted into a single bed in a dorm room, dreaming of lesson prep for the workshop I'm leading this week.

So much about parenting has completely defied my expectations. I thought I liked infants more than toddlers. I thought I would enjoy the release from career stress that my maternity leave would offer. I thought these business trips would become easier as she got older. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

I used to leave town on my trips to conferences, to archives, to workshops a little surprised at the zeal with which I grabbed at my temporary freedom. Caring for Miss Baby was so all-encompassing, so physical and and so emotional, so total that only a clean and decisive break could give me any respite. I handed her to her father and fled, relieve. Now that she's older, I'm surprised to find I crave my time with her. It's not that she's somehow of a different temperament or that caring for her is not still sometimes a challenge. It's that I like to be around her, this little person who converses and imagines and plays and cajoles and demonstrates 'dance moves': I enjoy her company in a way that I did not during her infancy.

Maybe, also, it's that she understands what it means for me to go away. That she cries when I leave, and daily pleads on the phone for my return, where before she might remark on my absence but blithely then turn her attention to a stray rubber band.

Two weeks ago, she and her father saw me off at the train station, headed to the capital for a conference. I waved at her through the window of the train and came home to them five days later. One more week passed, they saw me off on Sunday (Pynchon's birthday!) at the local airport, a small-town affair where all the passenger trek out across the open tarmac to climb a set of aluminum stairs up to the plane's entrance, the jets blowing our hair around. Pynchon and Munchkin were pressed up against the glass of the terminal, waving like mad. It broke my heart. I wanted to go back.

My girl is three and I am far away from her, my gift perhaps this new realization that sometime recently something in me has shifted. I want more to be near her than to clutch at time for myself--it's not that I don't need that time, but that it's not so desperately a matter of prying off the child so that the mother can breathe. In fact, I find, lately it seems that I breathe better when she's around. My girl, my sweetiepooper, my darling daughter. My Munchkin, 'free years old', still herself--always that very same assertive little soul who came home from the hospital with us--but more and more a part of me.

Airport hugs. Now with extra heartbreak, brave faces, and goofy smiles.


Omaha Mama said...

Don't you love how their chubby little fingers show you three? Oh, what a great year. It's thunderous, three, but also marvelous. I find I am enjoying the mom thing more every year, which is maybe why my mom never mourns turning older. She always says each decade is better than the last. Maybe that's why. It just keeps getting better. How cool is that?!
Cheers. And happy trails. :0)

Assertagirl said...

It's really lovely to read such a hopeful sounding post about motherhood!

Debbie said...

Happy Birthday Munchkin! 3 is wonderful...sometimes more scary than 2, but so worth it.

It is hard once they start consciously acknowledging your absence, isn't it?

Don Mills Diva said...

Aww - Happy birthday to Munchkin - three is my favorite age so far!

Beck said...

Happy birthday, Munchkin!
3 is my favorite, favorite age.

Jenifer said...

Happy Birthday Munchkin! It is fun to be "free" indeed.

alejna said...

Happy birthday, Munchkin! Welcome to Three.

Three is an amazing age. It's so exciting to watch them figuring out the world. I often wish I could find more time to write about my daughter's development, because I want to capture all of it. It's going too fast.

(And yeah, motherhood has surprised me in many ways, too.)

Kyla said...

Three was a pretty good year for us. Happy birthday, Munchkin!

I totally get this post. Totally.

Cheryl said...

Lovely, lovely post...
Happy Birthday to your sweet little Munchkin!!

the new girl said...

Oh, Mimi--
You did it to me AGAIN. My eyes! They are STINGING!

I love this post. And that pic.

Bon said...

happy birthday to your beautiful girlie.

and i'm loving three. loving with bouts of tearing my hair out, of course...but loving nonetheless.