Sometimes as a parent, you get so involved in the nitty-gritty everyday, that the big picture is lost in the pixels. Then a random moment sweeps over you, and you see things from the distance for the first time in a long time.
In those moments, you can see how far you’ve come, how you’ve gotten older and wiser, how your children have grown, and how all the nitty-gritty, messy, sticky everyday battles weren’t in vain. I had a moment like this recently. I wasn’t expecting it. It came out of the blue like a thunderstorm on a muggy summer afternoon.
My daughter has recently joined my son at his karate class. I bought a new dogi (karate uniform) for him. The old one was too small, and now Sister would need it.
Brother’s needed taking in. He tried it on and he seemed so big in the grown up, crisp, white uniform.
He stood up straight and tall and proud, and for a moment I thought I caught a glimpse of the man he is becoming. I felt both proud and sad for the little boy, who terrorized me for sure, but who I’m already starting to miss.
Then Sister tried on Brother’s old uniform. It had been a long time since I tied a white belt, and I was surprised by how tender and reminiscent it made me feel. The white belt is still much too long and has to be wound around her still slightly rounded baby tummy an extra time. There is plenty of room to grow.
The Japanese have a great word for this longing, tender feeling one gets when reminded of the past: natsukashi. It is often said with a sigh, bitter and sad and sweet, like all the best memories tend to be.
I sat back on my heels and inhaled the scent of them, excited about the milestone the new uniforms represented, about the boundless possibilities and potential their little bodies possess.
And we were happy together at how far we’ve come. Though I am mindful of the thorny road ahead, which increasingly they must walk alone.
When are some unexpected times you’ve felt that your children have grown and matured? How has that made you feel?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from mother of two in Japan, Melanie Oda. You also can find Melanie writing on her personal blog, Hamakko Mommy.
Photo credit to the author.
Melanie, I love that word ‘natsukashi’ it explains so much about mothering and watching our small bundles grow-up. I get surges of natsukashi whenever I see our smallest boy trail after the two older ones – determined he can do what they can do and urgently wanting them to believe he is as big as they are.
Melanie, beautiful post!
My older daughter is just 2.5 years old but this moment happened recently when she started speaking full sentences. Her look, her way of saying it, her way of gesturing when she speaks. Then I look at our 5 months old baby and I see how her big sister has grown. From that tiny creature who rolls over the carpet to this full-sentences speaking Little Girl who wants to be more and more independent with each day.
Karen, I have no idea how that happened that I “replied” to your comment 🙂
Oh the bittersweetness of parenting. The push and pull of watching them grow up. Letting them go and wanting to hold them tight forever.
I see flashes of the boy my toddler is becoming. It makes me sad and happy at the same time, so I absolutely understand what you mean.
Oh yeah, I reckon I’m a black belt in ‘natsukashi’! 😛
My most recent “episode” actually happened when my 19 year old son fell asleep on our couch a couple of days ago. I looked at him and, for a split second, he was again the toddler who wouldn’t sleep without his “blankie” … then, in a blink, I noticed the “fuzz” on his chin and saw him again as the young man I’m so proud of!
With my daughter it has been happening her whole life, even though I was unfamiliar with the term! Since she’s my last child, every milestone reached was ‘natsukashi’.
Oh Melanie – I know exactly what you mean! My 2.5 year old daughter started a dance class last week, and as I put her into her tights and leotard, I told her she was my “little ballerina”, which she repeated while dancing around the livingroom. As I watched her, I flashed back to that baby that, not too long ago, didn’t even walk yet and amazed at how quickly she grew and how she was spinning around and singing now. Definitely bitter-sweet!
I see the same happening with my daughters, especially with Halloween costumes. My younger daughter never got to wear the baby bunting “Tootsie Roll” costume that her older sister wore because she is a bigger size. But, when she wears something of her sister’s, I get nostalgic, or natsukashi.
Love reading about your experiences in Japan!
Beautiful post, and something that resonates with me a lot now that my son is going on 9 years old. I feel natsukashii at all the unexpected moments: when I catch a glimpse of his once-too-long shorts, now above the knee, when a song comes on that reminds me of my time in Japan, where we’d lived when he was a toddler. Because we moved to the US when our son was 4, I can easily divide his life according to country. So every time we go back to visit, old streets, stores, parks will pull me back in an awfully powerful way…those reminders aren’t there in the US and really just hit me hard whenever we travel back, and I realize how much time has passed.