Today was the first nice day since my kids got out of school for the summer. I had a plan: A hike to the top of Mount Sentinel, the University of Montana’s scenic backdrop. My plan. Not theirs. They wanted to ride bikes to the park and play, unstructured. I could stand my ground and suffer the whining and complaining all the way up… Or, I could escort them to the park and finish my book.
Needless to say, I packed a lunch and a blanket, and off we went. The park was busy. We found a spot in the sun and settled in. As I scanned the scene, I noticed my kids were older than most. Matilda, nearly 11, is all legs, strong and beautiful. She delved right into her examination of the school yearbook. She has BFFs, wears sparkles on her eyelids and keeps up with the boys in hockey. I read my book. Clarence, 8, took off with his lacrosse stick in hand, always moving—and a magnet for the little kids. In no time at all, he was playing chase with a little guy half his age and later another quizzed him about lacrosse and begged him to play baseball.
When Matilda finished with the yearbook, she jumped in my lap and squeezed me. As she (and I) ready for middle school, girlhood and the inevitable “push my mother away stage,”
I accept every bit of affection she is willing to give.
The sun was shining, it was warm, and I had an impulse to lie back, turn my face to the sky, prop her up on my feet and do “airplanes.” Like when she was little. She was surprised and delighted by the invitation. So I planted my feet on her hips and lifted her into the air. We giggled, she fell and we did it again. And again. And again. Soon Clarence was drawn in. And he flew too. I smiled, looking up at each of them with the sun framing their faces, thinking how beautiful they are, growing up, but not quite.
When they had enough flying, they scampered off, together, to climb a tree. They climbed and sat, together, for a while. For a moment, I wondered what they might be talking about. Then I returned to my book. The sprinklers were on. They didn’t bring bathing suits, despite my suggestion to do so, but couldn’t resist nonetheless. At first, gingerly, and then will full abandon, they ran through each feature and let buckets of water cascade over their heads. Their clothes were soaked. They laughed. Ran. Laughed some more.
They were happy. Silly. Unstructured. Free. With me. And I loved it.