After having four kids, I wish I could claim some sort of expertise on the parenting front. I wish it meant that by the third, or certainly by the fourth baby, I had a solid grasp on how to successfully navigate our days.
Shouldn’t I be an expert on something, anything, yet?
It’s true, the anxiety of how long your baby can go without pooping fades after baby number 2 and I no longer wake up pediatricians in the middle of the night with questions about heat rashes and low-grade fevers. I know you shop for school supplies in July when they still have Twistable Crayons in stock and tennis shoes in more than one size. And despite many, many long nights of sleep training, I know that they won’t die of abandonment issues if I let them fall asleep on their own in their own bed (OK, I’m still working on this last one).
Despite what seems like 10 years of constant sleep deprivation (see sleep training stress above) these tactical skills have fallen into place over the last 11 years. But all the color-coding, menu-planning, carpool organizing, baby-food making, playgroup-hosting doesn’t necessarily equal expertise.
The truth is, come every September, when I watch them march their shiny new shoes off to school, I am reminded of how much I have to learn about motherhood.
“I’m good at sharing, Mommy. Except for my favorite things. I don’t want them to break and disappear,” my 3-year-old says.
I know just what you mean.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am ready for them to go back. Its time.
We have had our fill of languid pool days and filled up on ice cream and Kool-Aid. We have camped in tents, roasted marshmallows, skinny-dipped and caught frogs. And caught fish. And caught squirrels (don’t ask).
We have taken LONG car trips to quiet lakes and sat on Paul Bunyan’s giant feet. We have waded in the headwaters of the Mississippi and fallen asleep cuddled up in quilts. Petted baby animals in crowded barns and bitten into steaming pronto pups.
We have played ball. And watched ball. And water-skied and danced.
We have sold homemade art with suspicious ingredients. And lemonade (with the same).
We have dug in sand. And mud (and not just in the minivan). We have had pancakes on the deck and dinner on the pontoon.
We have been busy.
But the sunscreen bottles are empty and I have no intention of buying more or pulling out my WWF moves to make them wear it. The bike helmets have disappeared and the pool floaties, left out in the sun too long, won’t hold air any longer. We have mismatched flip flops littering our mudroom and we seem to have had our share of summer and retreated back indoors to the TV and air conditioning.
Though they would never admit it, they are craving structure and it’s time for me to share.
But, it’s hard.
It’s hard to trust a stranger, even a kind stranger, with my Favorites. My sun-bleached, freckled, wide-eyed Favorites. I don’t want them to break and disappear. I want them to stay just as they are, shiny and whole, full of spirit and confidence, built up by long days of freedom and fresh air.
Of course, they will return changed, and perhaps this is the hardest part. I am reminded that they are not really mine to share. They are their own, freckles and all.
So, I will be a good student and share. I will try not to weep until they are all the way into their classrooms and not looking. I won’t be the creepy parent who hovers by the playground at recess. And on days when they come home a little beaten up, I will try my best to fix their broken pieces.
Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a stout believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy. She never takes the last slice of pie and makes a mean brandy slush. Visit Chronicles of a CaveMom (http://marnystebbins.blogspot.com/ ) to read more of Marny’s work.