When my children were little it felt as if I’d be taking care of them and keeping them fed, clean, educated and entertained forever. While in the trenches with young children it can feel like the job will never end. It’s lonely, the pay sucks, and exhausting. Taking care of other people’s needs all day leads to not having much energy to take care of yourself.
I got used to it. I put other people and their needs at first place in the hierarchy of duties and priorities. I got really good at eating from my children’s plates and stopped caring if I was put together before we left the house. I remember how after Liam was born I’d take them to Starbucks every few days. I could afford one tall drip coffee and Piper would get a cup of water. I was so tired and so mind numbingly bored that I had to have an activity to do. I’d put my Baby Bjorn on (I felt rich to have one, with Piper I didn’t), and wear Liam to the car. I’d put him in his seat and buckle them both in, and drive to the coffee shop with the Bjorn on still. I didn’t want to waste a single second of effort. When we got there I got my coffee and Piper got her little cup of water, and then we’d sit there and look out the window. We realized that the plants they had in their planter box were dying from neglect, so soon Piper would save her water to take care of the plants. After a few months of this, I asked the baristas if we could plant some new plants there, and get a gallon jug filled with water from them when we came by to take care of the plants. They agreed.
I picked Piper up from preschool one afternoon and had someone watching Liam. We planted a few primroses in the planter box and watered them. By now things were changing and we were busier, so we didn’t get there more than once a week. The staff watered them for us, and kept them nice for a few months. I started to feel proprietorially toward the planter box, and was annoyed when I’d find garbage or cigarette butts. Eventually the staff said they’d take it from there, and our San Francisco gardening days were over.
That is until we decided to try to grow a sunflower in a pot on our stoop in the outer Sunset district. It was never sunny, and the flower grew to about 6″. But we were proud. I have photos in our scrapbook of her standing next to her little tiny sunflowers, proud as hell of her efforts in gardening, wearing her rubber boots, holding a watering can. Piper has always known how to dress for the occasion.
We just got matching sunflower tattoos, to celebrate our bond and to celebrate her graduation from Portland State. It’s a huge rite of passage. It’s hard to explain what it feels like to watch a human that was born through you become someone that is shinier than you ever thought possible, to love them so much you can’t imagine anything without them.
This kid here is one of the best things I’ve ever done. And she continues to shock me and overwhelm me with love.