"But kids don't stay where they're supposed to. You turn around and find her not in the bedroom but hiding in a closet; you turn around and see she's not three but thirteen. Parenting is really just a matter of tracking, of hoping your kids do not get so far ahead you can no longer see their next moves."
~Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper
I've been reading a lot so far this summer. starting with Picoult's (I finally learned that her name is pronounced "pee-ko") very popular book that's been recently adapted to film. I can see why it resonates with so many people, not only in the way it honestly captures how a family deals with a child who is sick and that sense of desperation the parents have, but also because of the rich writing with so many of the text-text, text-world, text-self connections those of us who teach reading always encourage students to make. I turned the corner down on several pages where a sentence or paragraph said something I wanted to remember or rang so true to me, inlcuding the quote above. I was reminded of it when Macauley and Megan were playing Mom and Dad out front a few nights ago, pushing their matching tigers (purchased at the Kirby Van Burch Magic Show in Branson on Megan's birthday) around in a stroller left behind for them by some kids down the street who moved away this week and had clearly outgrown this kind of toy. Playing at being parents. Pretending to do it for a bit and then walking away to something easier or more exciting. Something you just can't do when you are a real one.
I've since read another Picoult book called Harvesting the Heart, about a young mother (married to a heart surgeon) who tries to do just that--walk away to something easier. This book is just as much about the challenges of being married as it is about the overwhelming demands and emotions of becoming a mother. Some truth I found there:
"...Two souls that were meant to be together...well, two people like that could just mate for life with no need for a paper certificate. Marriage didn't really seem to be about love; it was about the ability to live together for a long period of time, and that was something completely different...It is not about possession and limits. It is about giving everything until there's nothing left to give, and then searching and scraping until you find a little bit more."
I don't know that the two adorable pretend parents above could live together for any period of time. Although they do spend lots of time together, they bicker so much that Megan's mother calls them Jon & Kate (the episode last night about them splitting up made me sad, by the way). I don't know that I played Mommy when I was growing up. I mostly remember playing outside or playing school. I don't know that it would have done much to prepare for being a mother, since pushing the stroller, holding the bottle and even changing the diapers isn't nearly the half of it. It's the tracking that Picoult mentions, the watching of every move, the imagining of every horrendous possibility, the love, the fear, the hope. The keeping track of the big things and the little things, knowing you can't possibly keep track of it all and realizing how much you've already forgotten that you never thought you would. Watching your own heart, I've heard it said, running around in the world, vulnerable and unprotected, knowing you've got to let it run.