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A fork in the road ... or drawer

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Look at this picture. What do you see? Forks, right? Or more specifically, forks for little hands.

Here’s what I see. The passage of time, perhaps. Grief. The grief that accompanies loss. Maybe not loss in the typical sense, but more so — the loss of the baby and toddler stages, all wrapped into a few small but colorful gripper-laden utensils.

OK, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but it’s been a day. Not only did my youngest, my baby, go to his first day of preschool today, but then, to add insult to injury, he felt the need to come home and ride his bike with zero help. I mean, this little a$$hole may as well just chew up my heart and spit it out on the concrete slab, where he so arrogantly rides said bike, without a care in the world. Meanwhile, I’m over here wondering, how did this happen? Where did the years go? When did he grow up?

The forks may as well be anything that becomes obsolete with time. Fun fact, I’ve had those forks since my oldest was a baby and he’s now 10. For a decade, give or take, those forks have been in the drawer and I’ve thought more about them in the last few days than I have for the last 10 years. I now realize that there are many things you think nothing of — that is, until they aren’t needed anymore. It was a day in our not so recent past that my son told me, “I want a big fork now.”

With the “last,” the baby/toddler stuff starts to make its way out of your home. Baby swings, among many other things, become obsolete when your baby can sit up and move more freely. Bottles and sippy cups get replaced with cups where lids are no longer necessary. I feel like, sometimes within a day, something that was once so important to you or your child’s daily routine is no longer needed.

At least one time per year, the kids and I do a mass donation of toys and items that are no longer used. I’ve always had a difficult time understanding their reasoning for keeping toys that they no longer played with. “Why keep it? It’s just sitting there.” And as I am struggling to get rid of this baby/toddler stuff that is no longer in use, I now understand. It’s this stuff, stuff that transports you to another time, that you will no longer get to experience. A sense of nostalgia for moments that you didn’t realize were so fleeting. For me, it is acknowledging that this stage of my life is coming to a close and I have to realize that holding on to these little forks isn’t going to change that.

Now, I’m definitely not shedding any tears over the big bulky bouncers that I was constantly either stubbing my foot on or tripping over, but I am struggling with the significance of these damn forks. Onward to full grown “big forks” and appetites to match.

With my youngest going to preschool (and also apparently riding his bike) I’m making an unusual parallel between myself and the forks. We’ve obviously learned that stuff can become obsolete, but can I? Am I becoming obsolete as a mother? Am I no longer needed?

My rational brain tells me that is absolutely absurd.

My irrational brain tells me that I might as well put myself in the donation bin, because I no longer have any use in this family.

These two parts of my brain are often in conflict.

There were three other times in my life where I can specifically recall this exact same feeling. It was when I stopped nursing each of my three children. My irrational brain really took the reins at those moments in my life and I recall crying to my husband saying that I no longer had purpose if I wasn’t nursing my babies. Obviously in retrospect, I can rationally understand how silly that was, but here I am doing it again.

I am now needing to redefine my role as a mother in order to stay relevant. I am no longer the mother of babies. I am the mother of preschool, elementary and soon to be middle school age kids, and although their needs are different, I have to believe that they still, INDEED, need me.

To what extent they need me, I’m still learning. I am learning when to lean in and when they need to learn on their own. I’m learning to trust it when they say, “Mom, I can do it,” and to take pride in their independence, rather than fear it.

“A fork in the road” is a metaphor to explain the idea of making a decision between two separate paths. My path as a mother is full of uncertainty, but what I can say, with 100% certainty, is that I will never choose the path of becoming obsolete. I promise to wholeheartedly choose the path of being the mother that my children need me to be at any stage of their life. Let’s eat together tonight with the big forks.

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