Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The expanding universe

After a long Minnesota winter, our rivers have begun to run again, and the ice atop our ten thousand frozen lakes has long since fractured and softened and vanished. The sun even glows warmly most days, although we’ve had, I’m afraid, a rainy June, including a number of truly impressive Midwestern thunderstorms (I missed those something awful when I lived in Seattle, an otherwise perfect city where all you get is a bit of sad drizzle). But we’ve had enough warm, dry, glowy days to buoy our spirits, justify flip-flops, and coax out the zucchini plants. So, mustn't grumble!

Bee is getting bigger and merrier by the week. As spring evolves, at long last, into summer, and our number of daylight hours per twenty-four climbs upwards of thirteen (yes, we definitely keep count), our little enthusiast welcomes her expanding world with evident glee. Our surroundings are new and improved! Now with sunshine! And HEYIWANTTHATTHINGYOUHAVEINYOURHAND,

Now that she knows there’s more to this plane of existence than our happy little house, Bee loves to be outside, and I sure as hell can’t blame her; born to a prairie family at the head end of a long, bitter winter, my little girl didn’t get out much for the first half of her life. So now, when she and I go out on walks, or to run little errands, she gets to, you know, see new stuff. There’s more to this world, she begins to realize, than mommy and daddy and the turtle quilt and NPR and her wooden abacus and this thing. There’s so much more. The barista’s auburn beard and a bag of red lentils hold Bee in the same state of fascination as birds on branches and teenagers on ten-speeds; dogs and toddlers and mail trucks are amazing, as is the cool, breezy, and verdant arboretum, rambles through which (with aid from the Björn, of course) keep our girl fairly spellbound.

My world grows vaster, too. Parenting a newborn (which is no longer what we’re doing, thank Jesus!) is utterly absorbing and exhausting, requiring a both a crash course and a sort of laser-like focus on one’s subject matter: for the first several months, we exclusively changed diapers, fed, scrubbed, cuddled, and tried to induce sleep (and also tried to get Bee to stop constantly flipping out). Now that our girl is a little bigger, older, and more able to interact with us and others, Ben and I have expanded, joyously, the scope of our activities and our attention. I mean, everything we do is Bee-oriented, of course, absolutely, but we can do more with her now – take her more places and interact with her in more apparent (and often more fun) ways. She entertains us, and we [try to] entertain her. As she grows, so grow our many ways of teaching her, communicating with her, and enjoying her company. Having a slightly older baby is “absorbing and exhausting” too, but at least there’s a little more variety.

And it would take a year’s worth of overwrought blog posts to even scratch the surface, dear Reader, of the subject of my always-broadening understanding of myself as a mother. For now I’ll only admit that which will surprise no parent: namely, that the PURE CHAOS of parenting a baby casts my own foibles and strengths in an entirely new light – sometimes flattering, and sometimes not. Of course, I’ve no notion of using my expanding awareness of Self to improve my character in any fashion; with my kid’s outrageous sleep habits, there’s not enough coffee on the continent to prepare me for that kind of reflection-based self-improvement. Sorry, self.