We bounded from the car with a skip in our step, coats left behind, giddy to bask in the sunshine of a 40 degree day in a winter full of single digit cold. My hand fell out to my side, waiting for her to reciprocate, and it hung there grasping at the air.
It’s a reflex I’ve grown accustomed to like tucking a strand of hair behind my ear when it’s already pulled back or wiggling my nose to adjust glasses I’m no longer wearing. More and more often my hand reaches out and there’s no hand there to meet it, a reminder of the changing needs of my daughters.
While their hands are too busy holding books or toys or finding comfort in pockets or slicing the air as they confidently stride through childhood, I’m still recovering from other reflexes not soon forgotten. Days when I not only reached out for their hands but slouched over just enough to meet them where they needed me, walking beside them like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Or the one that had me bending at the knees a hundred times a day to hoist them into my arms onto my hip. Where did those days go? These when-was-the-last-time-?, will-they-ever-again-? moments always sneak up on me. This long, winding, changing road of motherhood makes me and breaks me every day.
The girls are 4 and 6 now. They need me less in some ways and more in other ways I couldn’t have predicted. Their bodies are strong and capable; their will as stubborn and determined as ever. They need more of my silent presence, more of my restraint to comment or help or solve, more of the intangibles of life we all seek to feel embraced, guided, and supported by.
Early motherhood is a tremendously physical journey. Feeding, cradling, nursing, lifting, swaying, swinging, bouncing, forehead feeling, buckling, unbuckling. wiping, bathing, brushing, shushing, chasing.
Then suddenly, without much warning, the balance of motherly duties shifts from your body to your heart. Less work on the outside, more on the inside. The needing less and needing more, it’s all more to me. It demands more of me to dig deeper within, to give more, to stand back more, to be present more, to trust more, to witness more.
The funny thing is while their needs for me have changed, my need for them is as fierce and primal as the day they were born. From the very beginning until forever, I need them, want them and for them in the simplest, purest way one human can love another.