Parenting Observations: When Reality Exceeds Expectations
If you had told me six years ago that one day it would be like this, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I would have laughed really loud, at first.
And then, I might have cried a little. Or, a lot. Six years ago today, I had a six month old who was still not sleeping through the night and I was nearly blind with exhaustion. Six years ago, the idea of spending two weeks together as a family with no agenda, no travel, just…hanging out…seemed ludicrous. That was a recipe for disaster back then. Bored boys equals mayhem.
But life really is different now. We have more freedom and independence, all of us. We can leave the kids to themselves for a while and go for a bike ride. We can send them outside to play, and I don’t have to set up camp at the foot of the driveway lest someone fall down and bloody a knee.
There are still bloody knees, if not more of them, but they can handle the drama better now that they are older.
Even when it comes to the way we live. They empty the dishwasher and clean the litter boxes. I’ve taught them how to clean a toilet and Windex the mirrors. They rake leaves – sometimes they manage to get them into the yard waste can, mostly they just throw them at each other.
But life, which back then when they were tiny seemed so cooped up and contained, breathless cabin fever by 3pm on Saturday, has opened up in a myriad of ways.
Just the other night, I wasn’t feeling well and my six-year-old single-handedly made me a cup of tea. Twice.
Gabe and I look at each other in wonder — how did we get here? They dress themselves, bathe themselves, and even feed themselves!
I think that, in the thick of things, we thought that the intensity of raising small children would last forever. The hyper-vigilance of parenthood, where every cry demands your immediate and total focus. Shoulders tight from being ON all the time, always aware. What’s that in his mouth? Is that a cold in the making, or just a stray cough?
The vigilance continues, just in other ways. School is an exhausting business and whether you school at home, or send them out into the big wide world, you are just as involved. Multiple schedules, homework, projects, details to track. After-school sports and rehearsals for this and that. Class parties and costumes, woe be it if you forget to bring in a pair of clean socks, two plastic forks and a bin of acorns on Friday.
But life is so different now, I almost can’t believe it.
I still kiss them goodnight, tucking skinny legs and huge feet back under the covers, where they lay sprawled in their nests. They shout in their sleep, warriors in the nighttime just as they are in the day. I kiss their forehead and remember the chubby cheeked babies that used to lay tucked into my side.
Sometimes they crawl up beside me in bed or on the couch, folding themselves to fit. Too big, too lanky, and growing bigger even as we watch.
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