These Are the Years of Looking Down
It’s easy to zero in on the things I miss from my pre-child life: sleeping in on the weekends, personal space, pooping in peace. The things I miss are always immediate. I am struck with them in the same instant I feel the demands of motherhood most acutely. I miss them because I can’t have them right now.
At the beginning of April, Jupiter reached its closest point to Earth
, concurring with its opposition from the Sun. It was a major celestial event. My four-year-old has recently become enamored with space, so I had been talking it up all week.
After sunset, we prepared our telescope but were deterred by an overcast sky. My daughter quickly moved on, relatively unfazed. As I looked longingly out the window, watching dark night clouds roll by, I felt crushed. At that moment, it hit me: I miss looking up at the night sky.
My children are young. Their bedtimes are early. We don’t get out much after the sun goes down. Even still, on nights we do get out, we have things to do and ceilings hanging overhead.
On the rare occasions when our outdoor lives intersect with nighttime, we can make a point of glancing up at the stars, pointing out constellations and noticing the moon phase. But if I look up for too long, my children have moved on. They aren’t much for standing still. Their lives are about action. Their moments, like their center of gravity, happen down lower.
Once I realize the things I had forgotten I love so much, it’s hard to stop focusing on them....
I love to lay on the Earth and stare out into everything else. I love to feel the tickle of the grass beneath me, to feel if it’s been warmed by the sun or cooled by the shade. I love to feel the rustle of things moving around me, like static, but actually alive. I love the shapes and passage of clouds. When it rains, it’s like an iconic jump into hyperspace, water droplets streaking past.
Most of all, I love the stars. There are fewer when we’re surrounded by light pollution, but when we go camping, the sky’s so full, it’s almost impossible. There’s a dizzying feeling that comes from looking up and seeing so much – the simultaneous depth and flatness of it all. It makes me feel small, but significant, like a brushstroke in a Monet. It’s overwhelming, like being part of something bigger, like being held just perfectly.
I miss getting lost in it all.
I’m a stay-at-home mom of two young children. I spend most of my day looking down.
I look down at my nursing toddler as he drives a truck across my breast, my cheek, my arm.
I look down as I change diapers.
I look down as I pick up blocks, trains, play food, real food.
I look down as I load the washing machine, the dryer.
I look down as I helicopter over them, playing ‘good cop’ over sharing and ‘bad cop’ over throwing in the sandbox.
I look down into open hands full of “just for you, mama” treasures: dandelions and rocks, sticks and feathers.
I look down over plates of food as I skin apples and chop vegetables.
I look down to see their latest creations: emerging shapes and letters, scribbles otherwise known as horses, and portraits of our family holding hands.
Most of our days are the accumulation of these countless blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. I look down to catch them all. There’s so much to pay attention to, so much down there to see.
Right now, I accept every invitation into their world, to be on their level, to see life through their eyes. That’s the phase of life we’re in right now. I never know when it’ll start to shift. I know I won’t always be looking down.
Today, my two-year-old and I colored side by side. He passed me crayons and exclaimed how beautiful our pictures were. Then he discarded our papers and crawled onto my lap, situating his tiny body into his favorite spot.
I looked down into his eyes, at his nose, at the hair falling over his slimming, not-a-baby-anymore-but-forever-my-baby face. The love was overwhelming, like being part of something bigger.
And I held him just perfectly.