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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