Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Legacy of the 2010s

I wasn't going to make a big deal about it being a new decade. What is ten years? Just a measure of time, some would say an arbitrary one. But 2010 was the year that made of me something I hadn't been before, and thus that decade changed me straight out of the gate. In 2010, a judge declared that I was legally someone's mother. And again the same in 2012. Two daughters. There is nothing that has changed me - and my entire life's trajectory - more than they have. For the better.

I live in an entirely different country because shortly after we returned from the vacation during which this photo was taken, in London, I realized that I could do better for my children than the city in which I had gotten comfortable. I dreamt of a future in San Francisco, of putting down roots, until I didn't. And I credit my children with reviving a dream we'd had years earlier, that got set aside in the whirlwind of parenthood and just plain life. Would we have moved to London if it weren't for them? I'm not sure. My husband and I give very different answers when asked why we moved to London, so maybe we would've done it anyhow. But for me, it was for the kids that I got serious about it, and I would've happily stayed in our flat with a view of the ocean if I hadn't felt that this city would be better for them. Which is not to say that I didn't want it for myself as well, because I did. I had just given it up in favor of embracing where we had landed at that time.

Many women speak of losing themselves in the midst of motherhood. In many ways I feel like it made more of me, gave me more than it took and continues to take. Living in this city isn't even the half of it. I am gentler with myself. I see more clearly what really matters. I am softer and also stronger, in mind and in body. In this past decade of caring for my children, indeed of giving up most of my time and energy to care for and educate them, I have experienced how fleeting this time is. Giving so much of myself over to the part of me that is labeled mother during this season has not been a mistake. This I learned during the 2010s. My kids only have one childhood, and it is going by so incredibly fast. I look back on the 2010s as the golden years that they were. We were together, the four of us, more than we ever will be in the future.

This precious time in which they are with me most of all will be gone in a year and a half if Z's plans for her education hold firm, and then from there proceeds the slow transition into a time in which mothering will not be the main thing I do. The 2020s will take us into E's last year of compulsory education, but beyond that I don't really know what will be going on. I welcome whatever the gifts and lessons of the 2020s will be, because the 2010s have been so generous to me. I have some hopes, but few expectations. I learned that from the 2010s as well, to let go a little of my tightly held desires and plans. Things have turned out better than I hoped and planned in all the ways that matter. I know I sign off a lot by saying this, but it remains true: I am grateful.