When It’s Gone

            My friend said something yesterday that stopped me in my tracks. I’d gone on a lengthy tirade about my stay-at-home life and how it was getting me down. How the dishes kept piling up, the laundry never stopped, and how I’m constantly finding Cheerios in weird places. Yesterday, I found one in my folded ironing board, which my kids have never even seen. Someone should investigate the quantum mechanics of this breakfast cereal because those nuggets teleport themselves. My friend looked at me and said with a chuckle: “one day you’ll miss those things.”  As I wiped Andy’s runny nose and fixed Molly’s hair for the umpteenth time, I realized she was right. What a profound statement to hear over lukewarm coffee and stale pastries!

            My kids already need me less than they did last year. “I can go into the school by myself, mom,” Molly told me last week, “you don’t need to come with me.” I smiled and watched her walk away, my heart splintering a tiny bit. “Mommy, watch!” Andy cried as he swung on the monkey bars, “I do it myself!” Just last year, he needed me to lift his tiny body high into the air so he could grip the bars. Where have my babies gone? No one told me that the hardest part about parenting is letting go. All these years, I thought it was sleep deprivation! It’s hard to appreciate what you’ve got when you’re in the trenches. I’m hard-pressed to feel warm and fuzzy when I’m mopping spilled milk off the floor. Or when I’m swatting dirty, stinky socks off my kitchen table. Or when I’m breaking up a catfight for the fortieth time that day.  You can’t see the forest for the trees, am I right? I’m so deep in the trees I can’t even see the sky!

            Parenthood is a maddening, confusing, rewarding mess. Just when you think you’ve mastered something, your kids run up and smack you back to reality. I’ve realized I’m never, ever going to know what I’m doing; I’m just doing my absolute best. I’m trying to teach Molly and Andy how to be good people, not just good kids. It’s easy for them to follow rules, but what about when they have to cope on their own? It’s my job to give them the tools to deal with problems, and then I have to step back and watch them muddle their way through. Until then, it’s up to me to teach them that milk goes in our tummies (not the floor), dirty socks go in the laundry basket (not on the table), and we solve our differences with words instead of fists, although the latter is sometimes more satisfying. I’m still in the trenches of childhood right now. My friend was right – I’ll miss all this when it’s gone — but it ain’t gone yet!