“‘No, no! The adventures first,’ said the Gryphon in an impatient tone: ‘explanations take such a dreadful time.'” – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Stability and routine. They provide a sense of security. When things are predictable, I feel sure about life…I would even go so far as to say I can feel like I have full control. It’s an ephemeral feeling, of course. But a necessary feeling nonetheless. In a past chapter of life, I shied away from routine and chased spontaneity. Maybe it was a product of being a teenager-turned-young-adult. Maybe it was because my world as a kid was only ever predictable in its unpredictability. A kaleidoscopic Wonderland.
The chaos of the shared custody between my inner-city home life with split time as a student in the suburbs felt normal. Was normal. Leaving school, riding past multimillion-dollar Victorian-style houses with perfectly groomed gardens on Lowell Ave. in Newton. Stepping off the bus in front of the check cashing joint on Blue Hill Ave. in Dorchester and walking past the same winos every day; planted in front of the liquor store like faded magenta Four O’Clocks in the evening sun. Both worlds so exact in their existence it was frightening, yet not unbeautiful.
In a way, I belonged to each.
Thus, stability and routine had always been coupled with disquiet and wonder. I hadn’t come to know stillness until just before my world got turned upside-down with parenthood. I clung to that stillness because it provided me with a sense of control that I had never fully possessed and provided space for me to catch my breath from the back-and-forth bustle of my youth. I mistook stillness for peace. I vowed to never look back.
And now, we enter toddlerhood.
Toddlers are dynamic beings who crave the stability and boundaries that they actively push against. Our twins are now conscious of their will, so at times: They. Will. Not. They know there are many words they can’t say, so they spend as much of their time as possible saying everything they can–regardless of whether it is time to eat a meal, get dressed, or smack-dab in the middle of the night. They want to be carried when they need to walk and they want to walk when they need to be carried.
In both the flow of daily routines and unexpected events, I have been revisited by the anxiety I believed I had left in that old chapter. I had at first wanted to respond by attempting to generate more control, but quickly realized that she who sees herself as Master of the Present Moment is immediately left in the past.
The only key to peace is to simply be. To accept that life shall neither be groomed to everlasting perfection nor rooted in perineal dysfunction. At any given time it can feel like either or both, always with a bit of the other inside of each.
This doesn’t mean let the kids do or have whatever they want when they want. And it doesn’t mean I have to live in fright or chase after control. It means remembering that I have evolved to thrive in any environment because I have endured extremes.