When I was dancing in my twenties, it seemed every year I slowly got a little bit wiser and more skilled in every aspect of my dancing. I also got more injured, and therefore, closer and closer to not dancing any more.
By the time I stopped, I was dancing as well as I ever had. I was more comfortable, more confident, more present in every moment. I was also seeing more chiropractors and massage therapists and physical therapists every week to manage my injuries. And I was a married 31 year old who wanted to have babies, plural.
I was finally figuring out how to be comfortable on stage, how to bring my whole true self into the performance process, right as I was giving it up and moving on.
It was sad to me that I couldn't have used my hard earned wisdom for just a little longer. It seemed unfair that I should finally get through a performance without wanting to vomit from anxiety and have it be my very last one.
That last performance was an odd experience. To feel excitement before a show instead of dread. To stand backstage, bouncing on my toes to stay warm as I waited for the whisper yell: "Places!" and not feel the usual stomach lurch when it finally came. To wish, as the applause began, that it wasn't over, that we could do it just one more time.
There are, of course, parallels to mothering my girls.
Every time we go through a new stage with Z, I am fearful, anxious, clueless. I read, I experiment, I learn some things. Then I get to go through it again with E, who, while she's a different child, provides an opportunity to apply at least some of what I learned the first time around with Z. By the time E's moving on, I feel almost comfortable with that stage of motherhood. Almost confident and present and capable.
I feel this familiar swelling inside, a feeling of beginning to own myself in this process, of knowing myself as a mother just like I ever so slowly grew to know myself as a dancer.
This is yet another reason it is sad to not have another child. This is yet another reason I find myself all too happily offering my opinion about friends' babies. Even when they don't ask for it.
In each phase, I find myself wishing I could use this self-knowledge just a little longer. In each phase, I wish I wasn't so slow in becoming who I want to be.
In each phase, I wish I could do it again, just one more time.
Instead, I am attempting something new: to carry over some of that fledgling confidence into each new phase with Z or E. To quiet the anxious voices inside that tell me I'm no good at this, that I'll mess them up, these perfect beloved creatures. To remind myself that we'll figure it out together.
I remind myself that every day is a chance to apply all I've learned along the way. My growing wisdom and confidence isn't lost just because my children are getting older. It informs every moment I spend with them, even after they leave the phase I just figured out.
That has to be enough.