Rowan and I are making a cake. An “Easy Devil’s Food” cake, with a three-ingredient frosting (I told him to Google “easy frosting”). We will dye said frosting blue and red with the food colouring I ran to the store to get just now. And then we will spread the frosting on the cake (once it’s cool; I’ve been around the block too many times to consider putting frosting on even a slightly warm cake because that way lies tears) in the form of the flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Obviously. Because my ten-year-old son came home from soccer camp today and said, “Will you do me a favour?”
I was smart enough to say, “Depends on what it is,” but a cake? Today, at least, I can swing a cake. We had all evening, and even most of the ingredients, and perhaps his team will win “Most Delicious Flag” or somesuch tomorrow.
This past week has been full of moments like this: on Tuesday, we held a feline funeral, where all four of us — two boys, and their two mothers — came together in my/our/our formerly collective back garden to bury the grey cat, with tears and best wishes and a Plaster of Paris headstone. I spend the early mornings cycling with one kid to one summer camp and then cycling home and driving the early carpool with the other kid to the other summer camp; I make lunches and snacks and arrange arrange carpools and play dates and squeeze in work and writing in between. I overhear other mothers say things to their children like, “Are you wearing underwear?” and I know it’s not just my house. There are bike rides to the park after dinner, frisbee in the backyard, eight-year-olds riding their bikes in the neighbourhood and stopping in for glasses of water and carrots. On Wednesday, I jumped off the five-metre platform at the pool because if Isaac can do it, then how scary (OMG so scary) can it be?
I watch it all. I mean, I’m doing it all, but I’m still watching it even as I revel in it, wondering if other parents wonder at the strangeness of all the things we do, the ways we make memories, the activities our children just assume are natural, given. I came home from the drop-offs yesterday morning and tried to explain it to Rob, this feeling of being at once removed and apart, not quite fully immersed in parenting because I’m too busy thinking, I am digging a grave for a cat or I am hiding clues for a treasure hunt around the neighbourhood. I had to stop thinking at all in order to jump from that five-metre platform (it’s so much higher from the top of the platform than when you look up at from the water; it really is). In those few seconds — in the rush of gravity and the force of impact, my hair elastic blown away, water up my nose, the momentary disorientation of being underwater — I was literally and metaphorically fully immersed. More often, I am treading water in this pool of parenting, mostly in but partly out, watching it all, wondering if this is as natural as it will ever feel and hoping that that’s okay.
And then I watch Rowan peek over and over again at the cake in the cooler on the way to soccer, see Isaac leap again and again into the deep, take comic books out of the hands of a sleeping boy and turn out his light, say a few words in honour of a departed cat, and I think, Yeah, it probably is.