And then again on October 19, 2008 a little after two in the afternoon when I gave birth to Baby.
But no. It took Husband and me sitting side-by-side on folding chairs in the gym of Toddler's future Preschool for new parent orientation for me to realize this something: I am a parent.
The fact that I have babies, two of them, tomboys-in-training, is not a news flash. Like most other moms, I blabber on and on about them and what they are up to. On this blog, I share the serious and silly aspects of their development. I post pictures of them on Facebook. Yes, I talk about them. I cannot stop talking about them.
But I do not spend a lot of time talking about who I am vis-a-vis these babies. And that someone is (gasp) an adult, a parent, a new kind of being, a different species. What does it mean to be a parent? What are our roles and responsibilities?
Sitting there in a sea of other rookie parents, I felt an invigorating surge of newness. Of unbridled hope and determination and purpose. To carve out the best possible futures for my girls. And, as I looked around at the mosaic of faces -- smiling, but scared -- and as I listened to the wonderful head of school speak candidly about September and separation, I had an electric thought: We are off to a good start.
And, suddenly, I could picture Toddler running around in this space, making this school her home. I could picture her painting and singing and laughing with new friends. I could picture her learning.
But I could also picture myself. Letting go of that little hand. Telling her to have fun. Forcing that familiar smile as I walked away, leaving her to begin this new life. Without me. I could picture myself simultaneously fighting back tears and telling myself that those tears are utterly natural, necessary even. That they are badges of transition, of change, of love.
And then I could picture my own Mom doing this many years ago. Dropping me off. Saying goodbye. Leaving me to become who it was I would become. Walking away, wondering who she was with me underwing. And without me.
Maybe this realization has come so late in the game because it's not an easy one. Because being a parent is a powerful proposition. A bittersweet blessing. Being a parent is about gaining everything all at once and then losing it slowly, isn't it?
If a preschool orientation has done this to me, I don't even want to know what's going to happen on that first day of school. Or at the graduations. Or at the weddings. Or when my precious girls become parents themselves. Uh oh.