Our language is not very descriptive sometimes. You can know someone, as in you have heard their name before and could pick them out of a crowd. Or you can KNOW someone, as in you’ve held their hair while they’re sick and delivered a speech at their wedding that had even distant cousins in tears. You can also know a concept by definition and understand it, but not know it in your heart or your gut. This is my relationship with the concept of “enough.”
I love this concept. It’s beyond simple and every time I “get it,” a wave of relief flows over me. You are enough. What you do is enough. What you have is enough. Who you are is enough. It doesn’t mean you have to stop striving or setting goals, but it does mean that if you stopped, you would still be worthy of love and happiness. For me, I practice gratitude, yet I still find myself worrying that it’s not enough and I’m not enough. Especially when it comes to my daughter.
Everyone wants the best for their children. That’s as universal as needing oxygen. What “the best” is differs for every family and even every child. I know that too. My struggle is trusting myself that I know what that is for my child. I also worry that by standing still and accepting the life I’m giving her, that I’m not doing EVERYTHING I can. I know (head know, not heart know) that a lot of my doubt comes from comparison, “the thief of joy,” as Teddy Roosevelt aptly defined.
Raising a child in an apartment in the city does not feel like the traditional setup. I get sucked into comparison when all the images out there of families at home are kids on the porch, custom painted nurseries, and a garage full of toys. Even in my neighborhood, families don’t seem to stay long in an apartment once the babies get big or another one comes along. I can go down a shame spiral in a split second just seeing an ad for a swing set or pool that we’d never be able to have here. The grass isn’t necessarily greener, there’s just more square footage of it, a dog running in it, and I can leave a water table on it overnight.
Do I remember that we live 1.5 blocks from a park with three newly redone playgrounds and a new splash pad? Do I really need my own pool when there are 62 (62!) free wading pools and a dozen beaches within a 10-mile radius? Do I think about how great we have it compared to so many others? Or that living here allows us to travel more while still preparing for our future? Not in that split second or the few after it I sure don’t. I’m lucky if I remember any of that at all before I just tuck that shame in a pocket and go about my day.
Of course lots kids grow up immensely happy and healthy in apartments. Sharing a wall with a neighbor or paying a landlord each month instead of a bank makes it no less a home. We’ve lived in this apartment for 10 years. I can tell you about every ding in the walls and who owns that dog that just ran by off her leash. I myself grew up in an apartment until I was about four years old (which I forgot about until just a few weeks ago). The memories I have of that place are just fun times with my family, not wishing our door led straight outside instead of a hallway. Having a lease does not equal instability. Even if we were to move around, home would still be where our family is, not the size of our yard.
I’d be wise to just look up when I start hanging my head. My daughter is incredibly happy. She loves running around our open apartment. The giggles she gets when the kitten joins in is just plain ridiculous. Sitting in the front window yelling “ruff!” and waving at everyone who walks by with a dog is her jam. She’s always up for a walk, bike, bus ride, or drive to a park, story time, ECFE class, or strolling around a lake with a friend. At a moment’s notice we can be at whatever fun event is going on in the cities that day. When I worry that we should really have central AC for her, she stands in front of a fan with arms outstretched yelling “wooo!” and I change my mind.
She loves people and having neighbors in the building and all around us. She still gets to play with her water table outside and we’ll haul it out of the basement whenever for her. That little bit of yard we do have has room enough for our garden where she is a master soil mover, dandelion collector, strawberry taster, and announcer of ants. Unlike her parents, she even loves the loud planes overhead. Though, hearing her say, “Plai-uh!” and point them out makes us like them too.
Those with homes may or may not remember some of the perks of renting when assuming we’re in the market to buy. Less storage space means less clutter to deal with later and we’re forced to be extra picky when it comes to what we acquire. Our dishwasher went out a few weeks ago and while it was being replaced, at no cost to us, we went to the park. We get paid to shovel our snow and said no thanks to mowing. I’m not saying there aren’t lots of benefits to owning a house of our own that I’d like someday, but right now this apartment is what is best for us. Even if it wasn’t the best, it is certainly enough.
It’s more than enough, it’s wonderful. I know it, but how can I KNOW it? When I think about her happiness and how much she enjoys life, that is when I can feel it in my gut. Those toddler giggles coming down the hallway could move mountains, so surely they can move the concept of enough from my brain to my heart.