My heart twisted in my chest as I realized that one day soon, I won’t even be able to pick up my oldest child anymore. It’s already uncomfortable to try to heave Aubrey up for a hug and she’s long past the stage of going anywhere on my hip but still, the revelation surprised me. My babies aren’t babies anymore. It startled me in the way that it startles you when you realize suddenly that your children are actual people and not just little extensions of yourself.
The following day Aubrey asked me for something to eat. I encouraged her to go make a sandwich. For several weeks I have been leaving items where she can reach them in the refrigerator and pantry, so she can help herself and her sisters when they are hungry and to begin to give her a little independence.
She furrowed her eyebrows and challenged me.
“But I want pickles.”
Pickles at our house come whole, not chopped and to put them on a sandwich requires a knife. “I’ll get you a knife and a cutting board.” I said.
I thought she would die from the shock of my suggestion that she actually wield a knife.
When Aubrey was about 3 years old, she told me she couldn’t wait to “get big.” When I asked what specifically she was looking forward to, she didn’t even take a breath, “Drivin’ and choppin’ vegetables.” This was a milestone and she knew it.
I went to the kitchen with her and carefully showed her how to slice her pickles and not her fingers. Emma came into the kitchen and looked as though she wanted to tell somebody what was going on, but since I was there and supposedly in charge, she was stumped.
“Emma, I am chopping these pickles with a knife! It’s very dangerous. You can’t do this. Right, Momma?” She bragged.
“But I’m hungry too,” Emma whined.
“Aubrey will make you a sandwich.”
Aubrey’s face lit up again and she started taking orders like Flo from Mel’s Diner. She made sandwiches for both of her sisters, including the one who, thankfully, still needs a stool in the bathroom. Aubrey fussed over her sisters like a mother hen and was obviously proud of her accomplishment. So was I. I had simply supervised while Aubrey made lunch.
Our new found grownup-ness translated well to this year’s beach trip. The drive to the Gulf Coast was long but not torturous. Sadie, my two-year-old, grabbed a few handfuls of her sister’s hair when she got bored. But no one threw up, no one used the bathroom on the side of the road, and for the most part no one argued. (I’m as surprised as you are.)
With everyone behaving like they had some sense, my husband and I took the big girls out to lunch one day while Sadie napped with her grandmother. No one screamed or cried, everyone sat in their own seat and minded their manners, and I marveled for the hundredth time in several days that I was in public, with my children and no one was pointing and staring at us.
Even going to the pool is light years away from the way things were a year ago. Last year, I was channeling “Baywatch – The Postpartum Years.” I was in the pool constantly and sitting down on the beach wasn’t even an option. I had to stay within arms reach of all three kids at all times, and I only have two arms. It was like square dancing with yourself as your partner— lots of unnecessary spinning and grasping at thin air. The big girls can swim now and as long as I’m sitting close by and paying attention, I don’t even really have to be in the water unless Sadie is with us.
For the first time as a mother, taking my family on a vacation has actually been relaxing instead of stressful. Spending time with my kids and my husband this week, with no distractions and no where to go has been a joy. It’s been liberating for all of us as our children experience more freedom from their parents.
The view from the side of the pool is a great place to sit back to observe and enjoy my family. And being out of the pool is an even better place for spotting a floater — because you never know when life, or one of my kids, is gonna give you one.
Robin Wiley O’Bryant is a syndicated humor columnist, author and speaker. She was born and raised in Jasper and now lives in Mississippi with her husband and three daughters. Read more online at www.robinschicks. com or e-mail Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org.