To me, they’re still babies. I see them struggle with something – opening a bottle, getting dressed, putting on their shoes – and my first reaction is to run to their rescue. When I walk into a store, I still walk straight to the BABY or TODDLER section; perhaps partially in denial over the fact that their clothing no longer has an “M”or “T” on the size tag, but that it’s either a straight-up number or set of letters (4/5 or XXS).
I still treat them like babies, giving them a little snuggle in the morning before pulling them out of bed; cradling my non-morning-person son in my arms, kissing his sweaty forehead, while his long gangly legs hang over my lap.
“You used to fit in my lap when you were little…” I tell him.
“When I was a baby?”
That question catches me off guard. I think: You’re still a baby.
But then I look around. I look at their friends, all between the ages of 4 and 5, and they hardly look like babies. To the casual observer, these little kids are exactly that…LITTLE KIDS. So why, then, am I having trouble accepting that my kids are little KIDS, too??
Their first day of camp almost didn’t become a first day at all. Besides the fact that my kids would be separated from each other for the first time in their lives, I obsessively worried about their ability to follow the directions of a high-school-aged counselor. Every possible terrible scenario ran through my head; I don’t need to repeat them here, but you can imagine what those scenarios would be. For weeks leading up to camp, I’d sit down with them and explain what they should and shouldn’t do. My daughter sighed in exasperation every time she heard the phrase, “I want to talk to you…” and finally said, “Why are you sending us to camp if you’re going to be worried?” Smart kid…too smart for her age.
The first couple of days were indeed tough, but only from the perspective that my kids missed each other. They cried at dropoff; not because they were sad to see me go or because they were scared, but because they were sad to be apart from each other. Then something miraculously happened – on the third day, Dad dropped them off and they simply gave each other a few extra hugs and kisses, then went to join their groups. No tears and no complaints.
“It must be because you dropped them off and not me…” I told my husband.
“No, you just don’t give them enough credit for being big kids…”
That night, as I was washing sand out from where-it-don’t-belong, I asked them about camp. Bubba excitedly told me about how he was allowed to handle the canoe paddle during canoeing. BreeBree told me about archery.
Canoeing?? Archery?? At four years old?? Seriously??
Later that week, I went to go pick the kids up from aftercare, which is like a kids’ dream because it’s hours of free play. I snuck up on my son who was happily occupying the playground climber, and was horrified to see that he was climbing the very high ladder rungs with no one watching him. The urge to run over to stand below him so that I could catch him when he fell came over me, but I was just too far away to make it in time.
But you know what? He didn’t fall…in fact, he hopped up to the top rung, grabbed the bar above him like a monkey, and swung until his feet landed on the platform that was a good several feet away. I watched again as he screeched happily while descending the very twisty slide and then repeated the ladder/slide sequence about another three or four times. Clearly, he was capable of handling the very intimidating structure.
Eventually, he spotted me watching from a distance and suddenly turned into a little baby again. He made a whining noise, reached his arms out and asked me to help him up.
“Bubba, you can do it yourself – I saw you do it just a minute ago. You’re not a baby anymore; you’re a big boy.”
And with that statement, not only did my kids grow up, but so did Mommy. And it’s about freaking time.