In the hazy remnants of the dark of night, in the final moments before dawn when even the birds have yet to open their eyes to sing the world awake, I jolt upright in bed. My husband is out-of-town and I’m alone, save for the two cats that slunk, with the stealth of cat burglars, to settle beside me during the night. They are disturbed by my sudden movement and, with haughty indignity and a disgusted chorus of “Meows”, they saunter away to rest without further disruption. I cannot. Something unsettling has been unearthed. Unacknowledged in the light of day, it was dredged from the shadows of my subconscious and presented to me in vivid, HD imagery, while I slept. Something difficult. Something inevitable. Something that my tense chest and weighted sighs indicate I would prefer remain concealed.
The sun was high in the June sky despite the early morning hour the day we saw it. It was perched precariously atop our car antenna and neither of us—my husband, my daughter nor I—was sure what it was. The consensus: Garbage. In the midst of grabbing a tissue to swipe it away, with my stomach in turmoil and my nose upturned, it moved. It was subtle at first but unmistakable, and the motion increased with the intensity of our stares. It was an egg sack. It was small and silken and perfectly shaped, and in the nascent stages of presenting to the world its swarming contents. As we stood transfixed, thousands of minuscule golden spiders wriggled their way free, crawling over each other in mayhem, uncertain as to what to do next with no mother near-by to guide their way. But quickly, like a scene from the ending of Charlotte’s Web, instinct trumped chaos and they departed, en masse, floating away on the ends of fine, glossy filaments to face the world alone.
I believe that we parent our children in trimesters. Similar to the trimesters of pregnancy, each phase of parenting is characterized by unique developmental stages for both mother and child.
Parenting Trimester 1: From birth to full-time school-age, ages 0-6.
During this phase, as our children grow from infants to toddlers, and from toddlers to school-aged children, we, too, grow. At first we simply try to find our legs, dedicating ourselves to something small and precious in a way that we never have before, and adjusting our identities from woman or wife or partner, or however we previously defined ourselves, to mother. Many of us set aside years of education and hard-won careers to learn to function on three hours or less of sleep each night while seldom, if ever, going the washroom uninterrupted. We are blown away by the sheer power and force of mother-love. We believe that this is both the most challenging and rewarding time in a parent’s life, but we are wrong.