I have a new toy.
On Sunday, I left Mark and Isabel to fend for themselves for four hours in the evening. I drove myself up to our church in the north part of the city and participated in a couple hours of "musicking", followed by dinner with a few of my musical friends. Part of this musicking involved learning three chords on my very own, brand new ukulele. It was challenging, especially as my fingers began to get a little tender. It was noisy, as 10 or so of us struggled through the beginning stages of learning something new. But, it was fun, envigorating, exciting. I didn't want it to end.
I came home that night to a quiet house. Isabel was sleeping and Mark had just finished watching a movie on Netflix. I settled in and showed him my new instrument and played each of the new chords I had learned. As we talked, we realized this was the first thing I had done on my own in months.
Sure, I run. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I've been training for a half marathon on and off all summer. Often I run with the stroller and bring Isabel along, but I'm even more likely to wait until evening and after her bedtime to hit the pavement with my running shoes. I go for an hour or so, and those runs are a nice chance for me to refresh and recharge, but they're not an escape from my every day.
At the end of the day on Sunday, I felt so much like myself again. I don't mean to say that I am not myself when my days are consumed with Isabel. I don't like that rhetoric, and I hope that I don't set aside who I am for her. I don't believe that's good for either of us. However, I think allowing her world to become my world can sometimes be far too easy, especially during these months when I have no classes, no essays, no group projects that demand my attention. Those few hours on Sunday doing something I enjoy were important to remind myself to hold on to that identity and, in turn, share it with my daughter.
I want her to see who I am as more than her mother. I want her to know that I have a myriad of interests, many of which don't centre around her, and that I'm not shy about continuing to pursue them even as my primary role remains her caregiver. I want her to know what I care about and, in doing so, encourage her to find her own things as she gets older.
We've had fun with the ukulele the past couple days it's been in my hands. I've discovered that lullabies provide the perfect framework for learning new chords and transitions. Isabel loves to touch the instrument as I'm playing, and it's a lot of fun watching her try to figure out exactly how I bring the sound out of the strings. The ukulele is becoming a place, a place in which my role as a mother and my self before Isabel arrived are coming together, melding into one. And that is the way I believe it should be.