The past two weeks involved:
- first day at preschool.
- edging out of naptime.
- first walk in which I could not convince anyone to ride in the wagon; they all ran ahead (I negotiated getting into wagon for street crossings, which they acquiesced to).
- going down some pretty steep slides headfirst.
This burst of wanting to be Big Kids in a big way–one kid even has had several meltdowns over having to hold a grown-up’s hand in the street because said kid wants to be like the Big Kids–creates the urge in me to push back. Squelch the growing. Hold on to the status quo for dear life.
That is the tension, isn’t it? The tug-of-war between parent and child: who has control, who owns the power in a situation, who decides where the boundaries are. The constant negotiation of how hard is too hard to tug, before meeting equally strong resistance in the other side.
I want to be on my kids’ side. I want us to be facing outward together, hand-in-hand as we move forward on our paths.
But oh, it’s hard.
Some of the new behaviors drive me behind my line, heaving all my parental weight against potential injury (physical or emotional) or destruction of any semblance of peace we have.
Some of my vulnerability triggers:
- Cars (even though my kids reliably stop at the corner, and have not ever run into the street).
- Stairs (even though every kid has fallen down some stairs and has lived). For some reason, stairs terrify me. So much potential for pain.
- That my kids have found power in “unkind words” (“ugly” and “disgusting,” from some of our children’s books). It is maddening to tell them over and over that we do not use those words in our house, and to have them used then even more frequently because of the simple novelty of something forbidden.
- The transition to “quiet time” from nap time. Which is going to mean however many weeks of super-crabby kids in the afternoon but hopefully smoother bedtimes–though the other night my nappers happily sang “Happy Birthday” to each other and most of their animals instead of screeching and leaping from furniture like they sometimes do. (Incidentally, Bear got to choose his birthday cake, and he apparently wanted a pirate cake with a brown background.)
Sandra Cisneros writes beautifully in her short story “Eleven”: “What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one…Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk…each year inside the next one.”
And this is the way all parents see their children all the time. They are three, and they are also two, and one, and four weeks old just home from the hospital, and on the ultrasound screen, and even before that, hoped for and dreamed of.
My kids hit a sudden spurt of wanting to be Big Kids, and my first thought is, “Wait. I’m not ready.” Which of course I try to pass off as “You’re not ready,” which is parent-ese for Holy Cow! Put on the brakes, man! So not sure about these changes…
So far, they love school.
I am almost-kind-of-ready for naps to be done.
I loved watching them be bold going down the slide, figuring out how to push their limits and testing their courage. And the giant smiles when they figured out that the scary thing was actually really fun.
I am almost inching toward maybe walking with all three kids by myself and holding three hands with my two to cross the busy street near our house. Almost.
I’m working on not letting the knee-jerk pull-back reaction to take over every time there’s a grand gesture toward Big-Kid-ness. I’m working on holding hands and walking together.