Progress

I’m still in the weeds.

The days are slipping by like an endless rosary, and I can’t decide whether this circular existence is meditative or torturous.  Feeding, playing, cleaning, sleeping, teaching, disciplining, feeding, playing, cleaning, sleeping, feeding…

I get frustrated, because I don’t feel like I’m progressing.

Perspective is slippery. I look at my life now, and think, I wish I could tell my one-child-having-self to relax and stop sweating the little stuff, don’t hover.  That person would look back and tell my childless self to enjoy all that flexibility and free time.  That person would look back and tell my young, single self to get up and not waste so much damn time.  And money.  That person would look back and tell my teenage self to stand a little taller and prouder, stop caring so much about what others thought.  That person would look back into my childhood, and imagine all the things that could have been, or should have been.

Then, my mind curls back to the present, and I look at my children. If my inner mother squints just right, I can’t tell the difference between my children and myself. What do I do as a parent that is truly about them? Is it really about me, talking to a former self? It is wrong, if I merge and detach from my children so many times a day? Is this progress, or is it just an endless treadmill?

When I watch my children play I’m often surprised by the sheer amount of repetition they do. Stack the block. Knock it down. Stack. Knock. Stack. Knock. Again. Jump over the puddle. Jump in the puddle. Jump over. In. Over. In. Over. Again.

To most adult minds it seems useless. Why go back to where you’ve already been? We trick ourselves into thinking that being in one place, doing one thing, means we have learned all there is to learn. So I get frustrated that my days seem to be filled with the same tasks. I take a deep breath when I have to empty the dishwasher again after breakfast is over. Again.

But children understand something that we adults love to forget. They instinctively go back to the same things over and over again, and their minds catch every tiny difference. So they learn, exactly how far a block can be placed off center before it tumbles. They learn the infinite variations of water droplets on a rainy day. They know that repetition is the doorway to depth. I have to wonder how much I lose by thinking that my past is somewhere only to remember, to put away in a box for safekeeping.

So I’m trying to do the same as my children. I’m trying to walk my past, in their present, whether it seems mundane or not. And when I think back on all my former selves, I can learn again instead of thinking I’ve really moved beyond. That’s progress, right?

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The Online Books Page: Online Books by Harold Bayley, reference pages hosted by the University of Pennsylvania

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17 Comments on “Progress”

  1. Oh, Mama J….I hear you at each juncture. You are especially true about the squint to see the difference between you and the little ones. My big, strong 14-year-old son had a major, all out sobbing meltdown (about high school) and all I could think was, “Ugh. I’m so sorry that you had to pick up every little insecurity I’ve ever harbored.” I was able to gather my composure and be a supportive-listening-problem-solving mother. But, once his mood subsided, the aftermath of emotion knocked me down and would have sent me into fetal position had I not had the daily habits and motions to go through.
    And here I go. I made this about me. Sorry. Your words struck a chord (like they always do) and this very subject and your emotions have been circling in my little brain this week, too.

    I love your last paragraph and measurement of progress. It’s something I’m going to adopt right now.
    xo
    Michelle

  2. Lori says:

    “Like an endless rosary.” Stunning imagery, Jisun. You are a poet in mom’s clothing.

  3. anawnimiss says:

    I don’t have children but I do have a four year old step daughter, and it’s insane how protective I feel around her. It’s like one of my vital organs is walking around outside of my body!

    And what you’re saying about repetition, that you have I hope that I can put it into practice, because it seems to be all there is to life!

  4. Galit says:

    And here I thought a post titled “Progress” would be a standard new-mom litany of what the baby is doing, or maybe some cute pics showing Mouse starting kindergarten or LP mastering some new skill….. I should know better with you. Love!

  5. Jenny says:

    Just wanted to say I love the way you write. And I’m happy you are finding some time now and then to blog, because I missed your posts :)

  6. Miriam says:

    I think it’s natural to see our kids through the lens of ourselves. I think we see *everything* that way- and especially our kids. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to see our own journey as being intimately tied to theirs, as long as we ultimately understand that they won’t see it that way. Not sure if that makes sense… It’s like they will be entwined with us too, but in a reverse sort of way.

    • jisun says:

      Makes total sense. I think for me, there was a long period in which I didn’t see how me and my parents were intertwined, but only in adulthood have I come to sort of accept that we are. So finally I’ve come to see that I’m a continuation/expansion of their stories, and that is ok.

  7. Choosing says:

    That is beautifully put.
    I tend to get impatient too, make long to-do-lists and then be disappointed when in the evening they are still full. I want, I want, I want, but I do not have the time, or the energy, or both. And then I sit and read to my younger son: he leans against me and we read a book we have read a thousand times already – but it just right. The right book, the right moment. And I am feeling fully grounded. For a while.


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