Melting Icicles


Sean and I have joked that the girls are like a time lapse—their stair-step ages making for a perfect peek into what is ahead/behind for each. Lately I’ve been making a concerted effort to revel in now; now being that Briar is 9, Avery is 7, and Finley is 5. It can be so easy to get led down the trail of lingering on the times when my babies were actually babies, when my purse would overflow with wipes, puffy snacks, and breast milk bags. The way my shirts had permanent creases from the Baby Bjorn and the backs of my shoulders always bore the sheen of dried banana. Equally alluring can be looking ahead to the idea of soon; when the girls will be old enough to stay home alone—no more date nights at the mercy of sitter schedules or discretionary funds. No more scrambling to pack lunches, open wrappers, or orchestrate bathing.

We’re not at then or soon; we are firmly rooted in now, which feels less defined than other times we’ve known. Avery and Finley are moving faster than Briar did, the milestones are upon us before we recognize that they are approaching. We are beyond spelling out words to keep our conversations somewhat private. We’ve entered the realm of the girls erupting in wild blushes when Sean and I kiss. They can pour their own drinks, but they often spill them. They have homework that I can’t quite understand and they are too smart for me to hide it.

The other day we were at home, everyone was burned out from watching movies on vacation and it was too cold to go sledding. The girls were bored and circling like fruit flies.

“How about you go and read for a while?” I asked

“Will you read with me?” they all sang back from different corners.

“Why don’t you play a game?”

“Fibber!” squealed Finely.

“Actually, honey, I am going to rest for a bit, so you need to pick a game that you can play without me.” Crestfallen, she looked around. The guilt seared, but part of this time is also carving out periods when they entertain themselves. They began to talk about games, but as is wont to happen during times of cabin fever; they just couldn’t agree.

“Ok, how about this, I’ll give you assignments?” they were at my feet in seconds.

“Assignments? What do you mean assignments? Like homework?”

“No, I’ll write down a character and you go and find a costume or disguise to look like that person.” Finley started panting, “Yes, yes, oh yes. Ok, what’s my assignment?”

I began jotting things down—

an author from England who wears glasses

an actress playing the starring role in the movie version of the author’s adventure book

a secret agent from a very cold place

Avery and Finley immediately began sparring over who would be the author. Briar had slipped away, her fingers swiping at the iPad.

“C’mon Bri, what’cha doing? Let’s go be our assignments,” Finley gushed.

Ave cocked her head, “Coming?”

Briar looked up shyly. “Uh, I don’t think so. I’m going to stay down here.” Her sisters tried cajoling her into joining in, even offering up the choice author assignment. She shook her head and they bolted upstairs. I bit my lip as I watched her sit back, eyes on the screen, but ears craning to hear her sisters. They thundered from room to room exclaiming things like, “Ooh, yes, the headlamp for the secret agent.”

“Sure you don’t want to go up, B?” I asked.

“Well, no. I mean, yes, I am sure. I just can’t really, well I don’t know how to—I’m good.”

I know this moment, the shift from caring about how the activity feels, to caring about it looks. I want to wrap my arms around her and carry her upstairs. Not yet, B, not yet. I could make her play, help her find the best costume and create harmony with her feeling good about how she looks and her sisters delighting in her participation. It wouldn’t change the fundamental shift. She’s not comfortable at play. Avery hints at this in her own ways, Finley too if I’m honest.

I’m trying so hard to support their evolution, but some days it feels like holding icicles in my hand. I am so tender, careful not to squeeze too hard or bend them in ways they aren’t meant to go, but it’s out of control. The ice melts beneath my touch, the shape constantly changing, my instinct to hold on as fierce as my need to let go for the pain I feel in holding. I watch the drops, marveling in the way they shimmer and explode, spraying new light in all directions. It’s magnificent, but at the same time, I feel defeat.

How can I hold water? How can I possibly be present when all I can see is the immutable truth that they will rush away in coursing waves?

Their trails will dry, the shimmer and dancing gone.

I know my job is to bear witness, to recognize that they are not so much mine as they are with me. Eventually they will roost in a place that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the amazing people they’ve become. I think what I am allowing is that it’s also my right to have my own melt, tears escaping at the impossible beauty of watching them become their own shapes.

I'm not kidding when I ask you to tell me what you think.

  1. This takes my breath away. It is so very good, Amanda. And after scheduling college visits this week for my oldest, it hits me in all the right places.

    • Yes, I envy in kids the ability that they have to revisit times. We really do learn a lot from them, don’t we?

  2. Bawling. There’s nobody on this planet who evokes what it’s like, watching this short-lived dazzle of children in our home, the way you do. The heartbreak and gorgeousness of every single day. Thank you. xox

  3. This is so beautiful, though bittersweet, of course. Your analogy of holding icicles is just perfect. And of course none of us can hold water, can we? No. But what I immediately thought of after reading this lovely piece is what happens when we’ve been the tub too long or even just swimming. Our hands and fingers get pruny. The scent of soap or lake water or chlorine is released from our very skin. These tangible mementos of the prior moment of bliss helps the memory of the experience linger that much longer. I’d like to think that in some similar way, when my own daughter (who’s now only six) makes her way out into the world, that I too will have something that makes these daily moments last a little bit longer in my mind. At least I try to convince myself of that in order to numb the pain of holding this shape shifting ice you so eloquently describe.

  4. Oh I love that you said you are allowing your own melt. That hit me with a sense of grace. Grace to allow them to be who they are but also for us as moms, to be who we are. Lovely piece.

  5. Mine are 14 and 17, and those days you describe exist only now in my memories. It’s a daily struggle to live in the now, to watch from just far enough away to let th
    Make their own choices and mistakes. I try every day to rejoice in the new experiences each age brings, but I must admit some days I long for the single digits.

  6. I cannot tell you how incredibly excited I get when I happen upon a blog that is both about the mess of motherhood AND well written! I might love you. I’m so glad to have found you. Thank you for this beautiful piece.

  7. I just felt a huge sigh of relief after reading this. My little ones are still little…4, 2 and in the belly.
    But two days ago, my 4 yr. old got out and assembled everything for snack. Made it, sat down and shared with her brother. I sat back in awe, and horror at the rush of emotions I felt. I had an incredible urge to make it all stop, even in the midst of gratitude that I felt as i was able to be resting my aching feet.
    The sigh of relief comes from knowing that I can carry your words with me into the future as I move through these tough and wonderful emotions. Feeling supported, knowing I’m not alone.
    Thank you.

    • You are not alone, no matter how cool some may play it, we’re all tippy toeing through heartbreak and wonder.