Somebody (perhaps Lewis Carroll?) advised that one should never begin a letter with an apology for how long it had taken to write back, and I suppose the same should apply to blog posts. I took an actual Day Off this week, an extremely rare event, and even though I spent a pretty large part of it scrubbing the kitchen which was sustaining several new ecosystems, I took some time to sit about long enough to remember that I needed to hunt up photos for Duchess' graduation slideshow. And the only place I really have photos is on here.
I have always figured that one of my glaring failures as a mother would be a lack of photos for the graduation slideshow (since graduation classes at Duchess' and Dash's school generally consist of 4-6 seniors, everyone gets star billing), but I was pleased to discover I was able to supply quite a respectable number even before she turned 13 and started keeping her own. Of course, most of them have Deux in them but they are quite tolerant of each other these days.
I don't know if other people find this about growing older, but I realize that I don't feel my life stretching behind me as a sequential thing. Myself as a 12 year old scrappy know-it-all and myself as a 25 year old new mother or a 36 year old trying to juggle everything are all still here and the people and the worlds of those times do not stretch out behind me in receding distance. They are like the blog posts, just around the corner. I could step into them at any time; I might go into a room and find my mother and grandfather deep in a friendly argument, or step into the back yard and find a troupe of little Ducklings constructing a monument to unspeakable chaos out of scrap lumber. I could, but somehow I don't.
Instead, the former Ducklings remain distressingly tall (Duchess is the only one who is shorter than me, and likely to remain so at this point) and disconcertingly independent. Somehow, as attested by the datestamps on the blog posts, eighteen years of parenthood are behind me, and Duchess is about to graduate and start her first job and college, Deux is in Running Start (at which he needs absolutely no parental guidance whatsoever but fortunately he does still appreciate parents who will play a round of Magic: the Gathering), and the twins (Dot now prefers Dame, but Dash will always be Dash) will enter high school in the fall. I feel less prepared for parenting than I did at the beginning when the first panic of having a small human in care hit me--and yet somehow, incontrovertibly, we have made it this far.
I never did get much better at the things I was bad at (I still have boxes and boxes in the garage of Miscellaneous Things I Didn't Have The Patience to Put Away). I have faced many challenges I never expected and given up on many things that were important. There were quite a lot of things I never got to until it was too late. We never did music lessons, or sports, or make beautiful nature journals with watercolors. We did much fewer read-alouds and much more screen time than I would have believed. But I still think--hope--I managed to hold onto everything that was truly essential.
I spent a lot more of these past seven years working than I ever wanted. I can't get that time back and it hurts every time I think of it, though it was what was necessary. But I made quite a lot of good soup, and we still had a backyard (however overgrown) and books were at least about the place and everyone learned to hate bad grammar, verbal ambiguity, and Christmas songs before Thanksgiving. And DOB is doing better, mentally and physically, than he has in many years and is finally able to return to work.
A fair portion of my work is estate planning and so I sit down with a lot of elderly people--often their children are older than I am--and they talk about their lives and families, and sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes it's heartbreaking. In the end, not a lot matters. Not the type of diapers or the dietary plan or (within reason) the type of discipline. If your children are honest and reasonably responsible and still on speaking terms with you, you have done about as well as anyone can hope for and been luckier than many.
And since this is a good place for my pictures, here is one. It's actually a year old (from my oldest niece's wedding--I now have three married neiphlings and two great-neiphlings), so add an inch to Deux and three to Dash, but otherwise it's pretty on target .