Fourth of July

Happy Fourth! The parade was its usual motley self – both under- and overwhelming at the same time. The WW2 veterans made me cry, as usual, with their proud, dwindling presence. The children adored it, from the firetrucks to the flags to the candy thrown at them. We had assorted family and friends gathered in our front yard (one of the perks of living on Main Street is that the parade literally comes right by our house) drinking coffee and milling around.

Whit has been a handful of late; sometimes I feel like I am, more than anything, waiting him out. Trusting that this, like all things, is just a phase. The child has extraordinary instincts for self preservation. At the exact moment that I think I am going to throw in the towel and just give him up to the state, he jekyll-and-hydes into a sweet little boy. Yesterday he threw such a tantrum at the breakfast table that I had to take him out to the yard and pin him down in the grass for a time out whose tone can only be called corporal punishment-esque. He finally quieted down, accompanied me back into the kitchen, and quietly began eating his muffin. A few minutes later he looked up, fixed me with a tentative smile, and said, “Mummy? I love you.” And somehow, despite being able to feel the imprints of his teeth on my palms still, I swooned.

We have had some lovely moments during this 4 day weekend. Grace, Whit and I went swimming twice in Biege’s pool (Biege, my godmother’s mother, lives a block away and keeps her pool heated to 90+ degrees -heaven, in my book). In the absence of other distractions I was able to really just be with them, to feel their sheer joy at being in the water. Whit, for the first time, untethered himself from me – he took off, swimming with two noodles under his arms, and never looked back. It was bittersweet, of course, this wanting to “do it my own self!” but I applaud the independence as much as I mourn it. Grace is confident in the water now, interested in learning how to dive and able to swim entire laps under water.

I feel like the mother that I want to be flits in and out of my days, perniciously resistant to capture, her rhythms confounding in their resolute illogicality. Her very presence – tolerant, patient, engaged – is a blessing, telling me that I am, occasionally, the parent I aspire to be. But it is also a deep reminder of how often I fail to meet those goals, an ever-present yardstick showing me how far I am from what my children deserve.