Motherhood / Parenting

The Beauty and Pain of a Shared Village

The Olympics were out and glazed in a pink light, which is always both breathtaking and shocking to me. After having lived here most of my life, I often forget the Olympic Mountains exist, since they’re almost always socked in by clouds. But not that day, while driving Brewer to daycare on my first official post-Christmas day of Winter Break. When we arrived, I bundled the gloves/hat/spare sheet/clean blanket/extra underwear/boots/pants into one armful of things and then heard, “I carry you mama?” which is code for “I’m not quite ready to go to school and need some extra loves,” so in magical mom fashion, I found room in my arms to scoop him up (without dropping the spare underwear) and hitched him up on my hip to walk into school. As I reached the door to punch in the code, one of the young teachers said, “his hair is definitely straight now!” in a sad way, and that’s the beauty of sharing my child with a village. The milestone markings, the gentle critiques, the notes home about owies and fundraisers for new playground equipment.

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When he was born I was shocked. Blonde. Blue eyes that only just now turned hazel, in the past six months. He looked like me. With a dark haired husband, I only assumed that my children would look like their father, with dark hair and eyes, and that my love and attachment for the child would be from growing and birthing but not from seeing my own face reflected in his. But there he was, with hair that curled about his neck in fine little wisps. And big blue eyes that shocked me into a love that I hadn’t known could exist. Strangers are mixed in their reaction, people who know my  husband say, “he looks just like his daddy as a kid,” of which I am fiercely adamant is NOT true. And I might over react by showing them baby pictures of me, with my own blonde wispy curls at the nape of my neck and wide blue eyes that stared into the camera lens.My first genetic relative that I’ve known from the beginning, and he looks like me.

I didn’t notice the change from baby blue eyes to hazel, since it was more recent in his 3 years of life. But now when I stare into the grey depths I feel connected just like when they were blue. And I know the hair is getting darker, as is normal for blondes, but it’s also straightening out. A slight wave and ducktail at the nape of the neck, but the little curls are gone. In their place are full sentences and ability to ride a trike unassisted. He’s growing up. And other people notice.

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In the hesitation I feel, when I let myself imagine life differently, with Scrooge McDuck levels of gold coins to dive into, it would be lazily hanging out with this kid all day every day to capture every moment in my mind and heart. But I know from our ‘lazy’ summers at home, when I’m off from teaching, that I don’t capture all the moments. This sweet daycare teacher notices my son. Notices the changes. She is a part of the village. And there have been hard moments with village care, having the “please don’t send your kid to school with that tiny plastic sword anymore,” conversations that wouldn’t happen if he was just at home with me. But these moments where I remember that they’re not just watching him for a paycheck, that they genuinely care and notice and are sad that he’s growing up and no longer the curly haired toddler of 18 months is heartwarming.

In the moment I brushed it off. I punched in the code to the door, and said “yeah, it happens,” which sounded abrupt and dismissive coming out of my mouth. I was in a hurry to enjoy my vacation day to myself, and afraid I’d drop the handful of items, and was pre-managing the meltdown that would come when I dropped him off in his class after a ten day holiday absence. It was later, in the quiet moment, that I sat and reflected on how having a village raise my child is beautiful and painful. Because I am forced to look into the grey eyed straight haired boy’s face and see the boy my child is today and not the memory of who he was before, when he looked like the little boy version of me.

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