keenchick

Stories and thoughts about family and life

When we outgrow the play area

on June 13, 2012

There are lots of things that date the age of your child and make you realize how quickly they grow up.  I remember wondering what kinds of things they’d say when they talk, and now wondering how I can get them to not talk quite so much (or so loudly).  I remember waiting for them to walk and be able to do some things for themselves, and how exciting it has been watching them assert their independence.  

My boys are both in Scouts:  one a Boy Scout and one a Cub Scout.  They’ve been able to grow up with some remarkable young men, and we’ve had the privilege of watching all these boys grow and mature together.  One of these boys spent the night with us last night, and I took them all to lunch today with his parents.  We settled on Chick-Fil-A, where they have been able to play and eat for years.  Until today.  Today, that inevitable day of being just above the “you can only play in here if you’re below this line” has arrived.  

As I returned from the restroom and walked into the play area to get the boys and order lunch, I found the two older ones (mine and our guest), sitting in the play area, against the glass, with the most down-trodden looks you can imagine.  When I asked what was wrong, they both said that the employee had come in and said they were too big to play in there.  The younger one is just barely below the line, so he could be allowed to stay (which, thankfully, he realized probably wasn’t a good idea).  

We ended up getting our lunch to go and visiting a nearby park where they were able to play outside for a few minutes and we enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine.  It struck me, though, how they’ve gone from being little boys, small enough to play in the “play area” to being our big boys, and all that goes along with that.  We just returned from Yellowstone, where the boys camped outside with their dads.  We moms typically had cabins where we could shower and stay warm (I call it “Mom rights”).  My 11 year old, who now insists on being called “Luke” instead of Lucas, came in one night with his dad to get a shower and get cleaned up.  Although it was sleeting outside, he couldn’t wait to get back to the tent and “rough it.”  

The mom in me wanted to wrap him in a blanket and put him in bed with me–it was so bitter cold and the wind was blowing so hard.  The independent part of me couldn’t be more proud of my little man, and watching him mature more and more each day.  He still does some bone-headed stuff now and then, but heck, who doesn’t, right?  

And the kid side of him is still coming out, as I ended up promising them a trip to Wild River Country this afternoon.  I’ll still get to watch them slide and play in the water and be children for a precious small amount of time.    I look at several of my friends who graduated seniors this year, and I near choke with anxiety of how quickly that is all approaching.  I am so grateful that I’ve started a business where I can be flexible with my time and spend more of it with them.  I’m hungry and thirsty for these opportunities.  I listen to Luke’s conversations with his friends, and I watch him take the lead and demonstrate such confidence.  I hope I’ve had a small hand in instilling some of that in him, and I hope that of all the things his younger brother mimics, strength and confidence will be amount the top of the heap.

I marvel at his hands, his feet, his legs, his gorgeous green eyes, and I remember the little boy who was happy to pile in the car with me on a Saturday morning and go to as many garage sales as I could fit in.  I remember the little boy who would wait for me to drop his brother off in his daycare class and patiently carry everything in, just so he could catch me in the hall when we were alone after dropping Brennan off and say “I LOVE my Mommy!  I want to spend the day with my Mommy!”  Little tears would form in my eyes and I’d end up telling him to come with me.    I look at Brennan and I think of the baby who had Colic and was never sleeping, and I now see the little boy who usually will give up all his tokens at Playtime Pizza to help a kid who isn’t as lucky as he is.  And I realize that I’ve done a good job–a better one than I usually give myself credit.

As I stood there today, seeing the sadness on the boys’ faces as they put their shoes back on in the Play Area, and watching the toddlers bounding around the room, I was transported back in time.  I suddenly was that anxious parent sitting watching my two year old, cursing those older boys who romped around and had no respect for my little son who was just trying to enjoy the slide (or, God forbid, the days I had BOTH boys there and practically needed a Prozac to get through a lunch watching the older kids run them over).  In a blink I’m that more confident mom, who can now let the kids go to the bathroom without me (although I still like to be where I can see them).  I try to be the cool mom who can have a real conversation with my kids, and I don’t have to hold their hands everywhere we go.  I’m also the grateful mom that my kids can sense when I’m freaked out, and offer me their hands willingly, because they know I’ll breathe easier.  

That play area incident today was just one more sign of them growing up.  Sad as it was, they actually took it in stride.  It also means they’re finally big enough to do some of the other things they’d like, such as the bigger rides at the amusement parks.    I’m glad these little milestones come one at a time, and I still have lots of Legos to step on or trip over.  Lots of music to endure, dates, movies, conversations for which I’m ill-prepared.  So today I’ll take the play area, and let it flood my mind with happy memories.  

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