The other day, my little girl – my second born, my tenacious one, my “problem child” – went on an adventure all by herself. She put on her rain boots and tugged her jacket onto her arms. She pulled her own little stocking cap over her ears and literally stole the socks off her little sister’s feet to wear as gloves. Then she went outside to visit her Daddy, who was working in our shop.
I barely even realized what was happening. One second she was playing on the floor, and the next she was headed out the door. I scrambled after her to see what was going on. Once I realized what she was doing, I just stood in the doorway, watching her walk away to make sure she made it to her destination.
We have a big yard, and she normally hesitates a little before traversing the entire width of it alone. At the very least, she pauses and looks back at me to make sure I’m still there. This time, there was zero hesitation. No fear. No worries. She just marched her short little almost-two-year-old legs across the driveway, under the big tree, over the dirt terrace, down the hill, and right up to the shop where her daddy met her at the door. She didn’t look back once… she didn’t even know I was there. And suddenly I realized I had tears in my eyes.
Yep, I was crying because one of my children just walked across our yard by themselves. I’m a mom and I’m emotional. But I realized that in some deep part of my mind, somewhere in my subconscious where I didn’t even realize it was happening, I wasn’t just seeing her traipse across the yard. I was seeing her walk into a kindergarten classroom all by herself. Then into a college dorm, where she’d be living away from me for the next four years. Then down the aisle of a church, where a different man – not her daddy – was waiting to meet her. Then through the doors of a hospital where she’d be giving birth to a child of her own, who she would one day watch put on her own rain boots and head out the door all by herself.
How do these things happen? Literally, one minute I am tackling her to the ground, pinning her arms down and cramming a toothbrush into her mouth to clean those tiny, tiny little molars. The next minute, she is upset with me because I make her hold my hand in a store. It feels like a week ago that my son could not even hold his own head up for more than two seconds, and now he can dress himself in the morning (granted, his outfit choices are very sketchy most of the time).
One of my major goals for 2018 is to be more present. I chose the word “home” to focus on this year – to make our house feel more homey by keeping it as tidy as possible, hanging more pictures on the walls, redecorating our mantel often, etc. etc. But then I realized that those things, which our kids will remember and be grateful for one day, don’t matter to them right now. To make our home home for them, to create a place where they feel safe and loved and wanted, I need to focus on being present with them more. To not look at my phone so much. To not get caught up in the depths of a new recipe and not pay attention when one of them has something to show me. To not worry so much about my to-do list and to focus on their to-do lists.
To start with, when things feel like they’re falling apart (imagine all three kids crying, me trying to accomplish something, and everyone basically ready to pull their hair out), I sit down and read a book to them. Or five. However long it takes to calm everyone down. And it’s amazing how well it works. Even if the house looks like it has exploded and we have to wade through toys to get to the couch, sitting together and reading a story has a great soothing affect on all of us, and it resets the day.
I’m trying hard to soak in those moments… the curly heads leaning against my shoulders, making it difficult to turn the page. The tiny voices interrupting me to point out every single interesting thing in every picture. The baby in my lap who is trying to eat the book – and my hands – and her hands – and is drooling on all the pages. The toddler freaking out over the drool on the pages.
One day they’ll just be memories, and I hope I have a lot of them.