As a homeschooling mom I spend a lot of time with my kids. I'm with them practically all day every day, and while it's an enormous blessing to witness the multitude of moments and the slow unfolding of their personalities, sometimes I realize that I'm in too close to really see their true present selves.
I notice it most with Olivia because her changes are so rapid. In my mind, she is firmly set in the "Baby" box. She's brand new, my life revolves around her needs, and she's really not her own person yet. And then I find that she's crawled across the house and is playing in the open toilet and I realize "Holy crap, this child here in front of me isn't a newborn. She's a baby blossoming into a toddler!".
With Lily, she was for so long my baby girl. She was independent but her youngness was magnified by the 5 years between her and Nick. Physically and emotionally she was nestled right in next to my heart all the time and then all of a sudden Olivia was here and Lily was bumped over a bit. When Lily was born and Nick got nudged over, I remember feeling such guilt. But with Olivia's birth I recognized that it's normal and that there isn't any way that a relationship between a mother and an older child can be quite as intense as the one between a mother and her new baby.
So these days when I look at Lily I feel like I'm searching to see who she is. At 4 1/2, she's got one foot in the preschooler world and one foot dipping into the world of big kids. Sometimes I see her as being my young baby still, and at other times I expect her to be more independent than is fair.
And then my Nick! I used to know every tiny speck of him so intimately. I knew where he picked up that phrase, when he'd pooped last, how many bites of supper he'd eaten. And now he has this swirling depth to him, this whole level of experience of the world through his own adventures and readings that I'm not a part of. So many times I've seen him as such a big kid only to have Lily reach that age and make it look so young. Is it because Nick feels older than his age? Is it because as my oldest I always expect more of him? Only time will tell I suppose.
All of this really makes me wonder who my kids really and truly are. If I were to take away the filters of who I expect them to be now and the shadows of their past selves, what would those kids standing in front of me look like?