Thursday, July 5, 2012

Growing up

Eldest and I went to a nearby park last week to see an outdoor opera. Just before the show started I saw a mom in the audience who'd moved to another borough several years ago. She has a daughter Dancer's age, but I haven't seen the family in eons.

There was a teenager with the mom, and with a start I realized -- gasp! -- why, that was Emma! Dancer's friend! And she was... well... she was... GROWN!

It's weird, you know. You kind of come to grips with your own kids' physical growth, but other kids really ought to stay little. I mean, I remember the day Emma learned to ride a bike in the playground. She was four. Perhaps she could be the size of a nine or ten year old now, but definitely not a teenager. It's not right.

*         *         *        *

I was telling a neighbor that while cleaning up the house I realized we don't have that many toys left. She looked at me with disbelief; her kids are ages six and three. She can't imagine not stepping on toys.

I assured her that there will always be a one-stud Lego stealthily lying in wait for the arch of your foot. But the trains eventually go. And one day you notice the dolls upside-down in a corner (as usual), and realize no one's given them a bad haircut in months. Maybe even a year. And an awareness creeps over you that something's different: the mess that covers the floor isn't the same. There are origami frogs in Biblical-plague quantities, elaborate marble runs (since marbles are no longer a choking hazard), jerry-rigged Rube Goldberg contraptions built from the kitchen utensils that used to be used as musical instruments, and endless sheets of character descriptions for role-playing games. 

You realize your kids are growing up.

*         *         *        *

Going to an outdoor concert is different with a 17-year old than it is with a 7-year old. I can be more Julia and less Mom. And that is good. 

When your youngest is eight, it's different than when your oldest is eight. You still have an endless list of concerns and observations and things to do, but not the same list. And that's good, too.

But despite all the times you wished your body was your own again, it's kind of sad when there's no sticky-sweaty baby desperate to snuggle in the 95-degree heat. When your littlest one is too lanky to fit comfortably on your lap for more than a few minutes, an era has passed.

It's sad. But then again, it's not. For if you've lived your life in a way that you relish as much as it's possible to relish (and accept the rest for what it is), your heart's lap is still full. Not only can you smilingly hold your memories tight at will, but you have formed a relationship that grows as your kids grow. It's different. But it's good. 


  1. I know just what you mean, seeing Dancer's friend. My "baby" turned 25 on Monday and when I run into someone he went to, say, kindergarten, with and they say, "Hi, Mrs. S." it always takes me a bit to recognize them (if I even do) and I still have a picture in my head of what they "should" look like, which of course has nothing to do with what they look like now, a grown-up!

  2. This post is hitting me right in the heart. My youngest is starting kindergarten in the fall, and our adoption is taking soooo long . . . I never thought she'd start school before our newest one is here. But I love the conversations and humor I can share with my oldests, who are 10 and 11 -- so your words really resonated with me. Thanks for taking the time to reflect and write.

  3. A wise man once told us if you rear your children well, they will grow up to become your best friends. I don't know how well we did the job, but these amazing adults certainly have become our best friends.