My first-born baby is officially taller than me. He doesn’t even have to stand on his tippy toes. He is, flat-footed, with no shoes on, taller than me. He’s nearly thirteen, and I’m pretty short, but still, when did this happen? He went to bed one night in his Halloween pumpkin pajamas and woke up in the basement playing the Xbox. Now I’m asking him to reach the casserole dish off the top shelf for me. And when did number two baby turn from a little meatball into a running back? And how did little number three grow three and a half inches in one year? Suddenly, and with what seems like no warning at all, my toddlers and preschoolers are tweens and teens.
I remember being told that having three boys, in some cultures, is considered good luck. I also remember wanting to punch that same person in the throat at the time. Three boys under the age of four might be good luck but it is also exhausting. You can’t go to the bathroom by yourself, let alone have a thought to yourself. The toys are never all the way picked up and the laundry is never all the way done. Wrestling always seems appropriate as does pulling your brother’s pants down. People scowl at us when we board an airplane and just last week we almost got into a confrontation with the people in the booth behind us at Chili’s.
Being at home while my boys were babies and growing has been such a frustratingly rewarding experience. It’s one I would not trade for any distinguished corporate title. Now, they are all big brothers to a sister and our house has changed. While those memories are so sweet of my three baby boys, I can’t help but feel like I am being moved on as a parent. My role is changing and that has been hard to figure out.
I don’t want to be the mom on Dr. Phil who still cuts her kids’ finger nails at age 16, but I still want to be their mom. I don’t change diapers and tickle them much anymore so now what? Asking that question is hard. It requires an acknowledgment on my part that time has passed and I can’t get it back. I can’t scoop them up and twirl them around. They don’t need pushes on the swing. No one calls me mommy anymore (well maybe sometimes but don’t tell them I said that). And a part of me that I am trying to ignore knows that in an excruciatingly short period of time, they will be gone.
So what’s my job now? To laugh with them I guess, about life and things we shouldn’t take too seriously. To care about something enough that it drives you. To teach them not to depend on me, but still need me. And how to be independent, but value community and family. Teach them how to be big brothers to their sister and how to figure out what they believe, stand up for it, but not be intolerant of others. And they should probably know how to make toast and do their own laundry. Shifting from being the center of their world to the springboard from which they will eventually jump is terrifying and joyous.
We spend the beginning of our parenting planning to welcome our children into our lives, figuring how to make room for them in our home, our marriage, our budget. It’s not long before it seems as if they’ve taken all of those things over and you can’t imagine it any other way. On most days as a parent, I’m just making it up as I go, but it seems like at some point a parent has to begin making room in their life for children to leave. I can’t pretend that I know how to do that yet. It turns out that having three boys is lucky, so right now, I’m going to try and suck the life out of being in between.