In parenthood, it is not the destination, but the journey

Sometimes, raising children feels a little like how I imagine life was for the pioneers of the westward expansion. You know, how they were basically traversing an unknown continent based on anecdotal accounts, feverish dreams and maps titled: “choose your own adventure.”

And right now, we’re somewhere on the plains, cheerily digging into our second barrel of sauerkraut, not having heard yet about the Donner Party. And, I know we’re going to get from kindergarten to the gold-dusted streams of the Sierras, I’m just not exactly sure how. Somewhere ahead lies the rugged territories of adolescence (shudder) and algebra, but anything past, well, today, is pretty hazy.

Recently, Dan and I were watching an episode of the TV show “Parenthood,” in which a teenage daughter was so sullenly put out by the very existence of her parents, to whom she even – get this – spoke harshly. And Dan and I looked at each other like, “Rosie in 10 years? No way.” But of course, the only Rosie we know is the one who creaks open our bedroom door at 6:02 a.m., crawling under the covers as if reporting for work.

Maybe it’s that imagining your child’s future is like planning for tomorrow’s sunrise when you’re completely dazzled by the sun crashing through the colorful clouds of this morning. I mean, I can barely even imagine next summer, I’m so entrenched in snow boots and windshield ice-scrapers. But when I turn the channel on my fuzzy TV station to “grown-up Rosie,” she and her future partner are snuggled on the couch and Rosie is leaning over shrieking, “Tickle me! Bite me! Get me! No, don’t get me! No, get meeeeeeeee!”

And Col? Even though he’s already fallen for, and then tossed aside, so many passions already: garbage trucks, push brooms, steam trains and heavy machinery (I used to finagle long stroller walks to a construction site with 2-year-old Col, until the crew caught on: “Lady, you need to have a hard hat to be here”), I see him simply as the grown-up version of himself, now. Like, someday he’ll graduate from University of LEGOs with a degree in experimental engineering, emphasis: vinegar and baking soda explosions. For his graduation present, Dan and I will give him a roll of bendable wire and a case of duct tape.

And really, isn’t it beautiful that we don’t know the next chapters of our children’s lives? My friend Jennifer is always surprised to see how calm and focused Col can be, because she just can’t shake the memory of toddler Col crashing exuberantly through our playgroup, setting off little earthquakes under other kids’ carefully constructed block towers.

How lucky that even though it contains all the bittersweetness of watching your kids shed yet another skin, we get to follow the unexpected twists and turns of this novel called Growing Up. And thankfully, unlike the pioneers, there’s no one destination to reach; it’s more about finding the nuggets of gold every day.

Reach Rachel Turiel at her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.