Thursday, November 19, 2015

She is Home: A #Wholemama Post

(The main post for our #wholemama theme this week takes on the refugee crisis with compassion, integrity, and faith. I highly recommend the read, even if you don't usually look at the other posts in the linkup.)

When I pick Audra up from daycare, I usually see her before she sees me.

Once she does see me, her reaction is always the same - she flaps her hands, kicks her feet, wiggles whole body and shoots us a beaming smile that is heartwarming and terribly guilt-inducing. I've explained to her before that we have to work so that she, um, has food to eat and lights that turn on. She's fine with this, inasmuch as she definitely understands the words "food" and "bye-bye" and thinks they are super fun.

Her arms are held out for me long before I can take the maybe five or ten steps across the room to sweep her up. If Jason and I pick her up together, of course, it's him she holds her arms up to, as she is overwhelmingly and thoroughly a Daddy's girl already.

I sign her out, always somehow managing to forget that I'm left-handed until I'm trying to write down her names and the time with the same arm that's holding her onto my hip. She helpfully points at the coatrack where her diaper bag hangs on a peg with her name above it, always concerned that we might forget.

She cannot read her name, but she knows the bright teal Vera Bradley diaper bag that has gone with her to daycare for nearly a year straight. (What? I'm Midwestern. We love our Vera Bradley.) Once I wasn't looking and accidentally picked up a different bag and she squawked at me until I realized it and put it back. She's a helper that way. A helper who makes strange noises.

Happily snuggled in my arms, she will wave goodbye at the other children and the ladies who take such good care of her each day.

Within the last three weeks or so, she's begun adding a clear "Buh-bye", which she repeats three or four times to make sure everyone hears her. Then she'll repeat it a few more times, with increasingly volume, if it takes me longer to get her out the door than she would like because I've committed the cardinal sin of wanting to stay and chat for a few minutes.

Outside, she wiggles around until I let her get down to toddle, holding tight to my hands, across the parking lot towards our car. Sometimes other parents smile at me as they make their own way in to pick up their own happy children. Now and then we see one of the many cats being fed by someone who lives in a house right near the daycare. They are skinny and uniformly very young, watching us from beneath bushes and running when she points at them and yells, "Dat!"

Barefoot when it's warm or in socks when it isn't, Audra makes her way towards my car. She knows which one it is and will quickly correct me if she feels I'm not heading right for it. She uses my hands for balance, but otherwise she walks confidently, with a toothy smile. I know that she won't want to hold onto me for long, that we are getting very close to the "I do it myself" days.

I pack her into her carseat while she alternately tries to "help" or fights me like a banshee, depending on how she feels about carseats that day. While she straightens her whole body into a straight line that appears to be stronger than steel, I briefly mourn the days where my daughter was essentially a warm loaf of bread that gurgled once in a while.

Then she looks me in the eye and says, "Mama," and I realize that this is the happiest I have ever been, I don't need that bread-baby, I need this little girl and her words and her love. I wistfully think about how nice it might be to have this little girl and the warm-bread-loaf baby.

I remember my bank account balance and the part where doctors and hospitals expect you to give them money.

I wait to get out of the parking lot while rush-hour traffic zooms by, somehow leaving just enough room between the cars for me to get impatient but never enough room for me to actually get where I need to go. I try to contain my ever-present road rage while Audra babbles her day at me in the backseat, using occasionally kicking the back of the seat instead of punctuation. As far as she is concerned, this is a conversation had between equals.

I'm inclined to agree - I just don't understand her language.

Bundling her back out of the car after we park includes a bit of a balancing act, considering I never leave myself enough room on the drivers' side and always end up having to do strange yoga poses to get her and her diaper bag out of the car intact.

If the weather is nice, I'll drop the diaper bag on the front porch and let her walk around in the yard and the driveway. We might go see the neighbors, or maybe just the neighbors' chickens. Sometime we just walk up and down, up and down, Audra's hands gripping so tightly to my fingers that I eventually lose feeling and I don't even care.

Eventually, even she has to admit that never napping at daycare means that she's tired when she finally makes it home. We go inside and have her afternoon ritual - milk and snuggles on the couch, in the dim half-light let in through our windows, and then down for a nap.

Except of course, on those days where she decides naps are for other peoples' children and fights like King Richard's last stand until we finally give up and accept that bedtime's going to be very early tonight...

She's spent her day at daycare, a kind of nonstop VBS, playing with other babies or chewing on toys, eating lunch there with friends and her favorite daycare ladies. It's the place she knows second-best.

When either Jason or I comes in to pick her up, though, she discards daycare immediately. She holds her arms out to us, and when we pick her up she knows she is only seconds from home.

Really, she's already there. So are we.

Our steps out the door, to the car, and inside are just a series of afterthoughts.

The moment she is in our arms, she's home.

We are home for her, and have been since the first second they laid her on my chest and she took turns looking between me and Jason and back again, blinking wide dark eyes and drinking in our faces and smells to remember this world, first.

We are home for her.

But, really, I'm not "home from work" until I pick her up.

I may leave work and have some time at home before I need to get her, time I usually spend doing a little picking up around the house or getting laundry started or doing prep-work for dinner. Sometimes I just have a cup of tea and decompress. But I'm not really home until all three of us are. Until Jason and Audra are both in the house, I'm just killing time.

We are Audra's home, and she is ours.

Without her, nothing quite feels finished about our space. When she's there, dropping parts of her dinner to the dog and insisting that giraffes make the same noises as velociraptors, things just seem to fit. Oh sure, it's exhausting and intense and I feel like I've been running marathons by nine, but still it fits.

I didn't realize she was missing until she was here, but there it is, the truth of the matter. She's not the siding, she's the walls. She's not the shingles on the roof, but the bricks that laid the foundation. She's not our front door, she's the cornerstone.

She may hold her arms out to us when we arrive, but we are also reaching out for her.

She's home.

She is Home: A #Wholemama post from Stress and Stars

Today's post is my twelfth while participating in the #wholemama link up. This week's theme was "home". You can find the linkup here over on Erika Shirk's blog Overflow. My other posts as part of the linkup have been I Used to Think I Couldn't Dance, Calm, A Hard Leap Off a High Cliff, Motherhood on Purpose, On Reading and Peace, I Lay You Down to Sleep, My Love, When It Rains... Celebrate, Parenting is Silly, Anything But Ordinary, Space, Prayer, and A Supermom is a Sleep-Deprived Mom

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