The other night JDP lolly-gagged contentedly in the bathtub. His brothers were already bathed and jammied, and he was happy to be in the tub alone without anyone to steal his toy boats and trucks, so I let him take his time in the bath while I changed our sheets in the room next door. At one point his babbles and splashes settled down and I quickly went in to check on him and found him lying on his back in the tub, completely relaxed, holding a toy boat above his head and turning it over in his hands. He was so happy.
This was a noteworthy moment because just a few weeks ago every bath was a battle. For reasons that we were never able to determine, sometime in late April JDP decided that baths were on par with waterboarding and threw a commensurate fit every time we filled the tub. This lasted for about a month, and then suddenly it was over.
The experience of raising children is probably unrivaled in its ability to impress upon you that nothing lasts. Neither diapers nor tantrums. Neither Boppy naps nor toddler vocab (the cutest words ever spoken come out of the mouths of 18-month-olds). For better and worse, they all come and go. And based on our limited tenure so far I would say that raising an adopted toddler even further heightens that truth. They have so much to process, and yet they have so few means to do so. And so, absent the ability to say something self-aware and coherent about it (such as, “You know, Mom, remember like three weeks ago when X happened at bath time? Well it really freaked me out and I’m having some trouble getting past it. Could you talk it through with me?”), they throw a fit. And perhaps they even throw the same fit every other night at bath time for a solid month. And then, poof, they’ve moved on. What was once perceived as a torture chamber is now considered the best possible respite from the stresses of toddlerhood. Voila! Time heals all bath hatred.
That night after putting JDP to bed I went downstairs and told my husband about The Happy Bath and marveled at it. All the hangups were just… gone. “EVERYTHING is temporary,” I told him. And that got me to thinking about how true that statement is in all aspects of life.
It is true of the friends whose lives go in different directions. It was true of many old classmates. It was true of the car I drove and loved for nine years after college. It is true of the miserable boss or antagonizing coworker (I’ve had my share of each). It is also true of the wonderful, mentoring boss and the fun, collaborative coworkers (thankfully I’ve had those too). It is true of neighbors and homes and restaurants. When we look at the list of things and people in our lives that are truly permanent – the ones that will be with us ten or 20 years from now – it’s a surprisingly short list. The people in my life who are permanent include my and GAP’s parents, siblings, and their children, and a few key friends whose presence in our life transcends logistics or phases. We will not live in our current house forever (which means that we will not live two blocks from our favorite pizza place forever). We will not have our amazing dogs forever. We will not have to travel with sippy cups and Pack N Plays forever. Our kisses will not heal our children’s wounds forever.
It both breaks and warms my heart to recognize that everything is temporary. Everything’s a phase.
GAP is not one for keepsakes, but I am. When we first started traveling together it took me a while to explain to him why a memory itself isn’t enough; why I needed an object to embody it. Most of life’s experiences are fleeting, but tangible representations of those moments can be more enduring. I like to look at, and hold, and feel things that take me back to a particular place in my life. They help me carry with me the moments that I can’t actually carry with me.
Sitting on my desk at home are a horseshoe, a coffee mug, and a lacquered box. But they are not just a horseshoe, a coffee mug, and a lacquered box. They are reminders of a place or time that I do not want to forget – a phase of my life that is gone. Almost. But not quite.