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Posts tagged ‘growing up’

Brittany: The Anatomy of Change

Sam has decided he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. His latest bedtime book of choice? The Human Body. Tonight we read about the skull and the skeleton. Non-scientific Mommy got to explain that the skull is like a bike helmet that protects your ball-of-Jello brain. I also demonstrated the structural usefulness of bones with a spare sock and the pen on Sam’s Magnadoodle. I don’t know if I’m confusing him more or not, but his desire to know all about the body is insatiable. He’s already made a standing appointment with me for another anatomy lesson tomorrow night (when we’ll read about digestion and pelvic bones).

It’s funny, because when I was little, I said I wanted to be a doctor, too. The difference was, I just wanted to take care of sick people and make them feel better. I didn’t care a whit about how the human body worked. That was of no interest to me whatsoever.

I can see myself in Sam, but at the same time, I’m well aware of the ways he diverges from me, too. In a lot of ways I feel like he is the turbo-charged version of me — the one whose detail-orientation and persistence will propel him toward success I could never even dream of. And that makes me happy. I hope he’s able to harness all his potential into something amazing.

It’s hard for me to believe that his preschool days are now over. I don’t think I have anything new to say on the subject without descending into cliches. Where has the time gone? My baby’s all grown up. I can’t believe he’s so big. I feel so old.

I’ll admit I’m feeling anxious for him. Every time he starts worrying about kindergarten, I can’t help but worry along with him, even as I’m telling him it will be all be a wonderful adventure. He seems to already understand that expectations are about to be piled on him — make-it-or-break-it expectations — and that he’s going to have to grow up fast.

I want to cry with him as he realizes that he’s no longer small enough for Mommy’s arms to shut the world out. And even though he still wants the comfort of a snuggle, he’s getting too big to fit in my lap. I knew this day was going to come, but that doesn’t make now any easier.

My friend Kira stopped by today with a friend and her friend’s three-month-old baby. He was so tiny and helpless. So new. So easy.

His mother sat feeding him in the quiet of the living room, her arms enveloping him, in one of those peaceful, protective moments of newborn motherhood that I still vaguely remember. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Sam and John were underfoot, loudly racing garbage trucks with Tyler and Zachary, while Kira and I threw their lunches together. The metaphor was not lost on me. Those quiet me-alone-with-my-baby moments are over. I live in a completely different world now. Seeing Sam and John in one room, the newborn in the other, it was hard to believe how much the boys had grown, and how far removed all of us were from those sweet, drowsy baby days.

I think Sam understands this. He’s wondering how we got from there to here, too. And his newfound interest in the human body? Like me, he’s trying to wrap his brain around that vast world that envelopes the heart.

[Crossposted from Re-Writing Motherhood]

Kelly: Perceptions

I got an e-mail from my father recently with the subject line “This is our old house!” I looked at this picture but didn’t recognize the house, so I asked him the address. He couldn’t remember the address but said it was the one by the old Levitz and the arch in North Miami; we lived there through my elementary school years. I immediately e-mailed back with “17045 N.W. 11th Avenue, 305-620-0367. I remember the house being pale yellow with a big tree in the front yard.” Dad said that, yes, it had been yellow with a big tree in the front yard. I remember that Dad’s boat was always parked on the trailer on the side of the house where that car sits now. It was a pale blue boat with a large number 44 painted on the side. Dad was a daredevil, racing both boats and motorcycles when I was a kid, probably why speed is still in my blood today. My friend Timmy lived two doors down, and my best friend Terri lived around the block. My mom and dad were good friends with Carol and Wally across the street; they had children, too, but I can’t remember their names. They were even younger than I. Dad was down in Miami on business, and when he saw that old arch, he became curious about the old neighborhood and found the house. Looks pretty sad now, doesn’t it? That address was the opening line of this emotionally raw essay.

It’s fascinating to me how our perceptions change as we grow up. When I was a child, that house seemed huge! But thinking back now and seeing this picture, obviously it was quite small. Dad said it was about 800-900 square feet, three bedrooms, one bath. I remember there being a Magnolia tree in the corner of the back yard. I think the tree in the front yard was a Magnolia as well. Based on this little house, I guess we didn’t have much money growing up, but I clearly remember that I never lacked for anything I needed in those days. My mom was a nurse and my dad worked more than one job while going to school at night; they were 20 when they were married in May and I was born in December of the same year. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized that math didn’t work out quite right.

There was an elementary school at the end of our street, but because of the times and busing in Miami in an effort to better integrate schools, we weren’t districted for that school. I was to ride the bus to a school on the other side of town. Instead, my parents put in me a private Christian school closer to home, where I was sent home more than once, a tomboy rebelling against the “dress” code by wearing pants. My sister was also born in Miami, but then we moved to St. Petersburg before she was a year old. We were in St. Pete for two years before my parents divorced, and Mom, Kim, and I moved here to the Jacksonville area to be near my Nana and Granddaddy.

My girls and I were driving through “the old neighborhood” a while back, and I showed them the house their daddy lived in when we met and where we lived together for six and a half years. “It’s so small!” they both said. It was about 1,000 square feet, three bedrooms, one bath, built in the ‘50s, a cute little concrete rancher in a neighborhood that has now had its share of neglect. Once we were ready to get started building our current home, we put that house up for sale on a Friday, and I went over to Tallahassee for a football game.  When I got back that Sunday, DH had already sold the house. We didn’t expect things to happen quite that quickly! Luckily, DH’s daddy’s house was vacant at the time, so we were able to move in there, the very house DH was born in and grew up in. It was about the size of my childhood house, and we lived there for the nearly year and a half it took us to build our home.

I think of my perception of my house when I was in elementary school and wonder what my girls think now. Our house is not overly large by any means, especially when I think about the houses my mother and her third husband lived in and the homes of many of my friends, but yes, we are blessed to have a river in the back yard. It’s interesting for me to see how my girls react to the houses of their friends. They have commented that their friends’ houses are smaller than ours…but they’ve also commented that their friends have “soooo many toys!!!” Maybe that’s perception, too, a perception on what’s really needed.  In their friends’ houses, yes, there are lots and lots and lots of toys. Here at our house, sure, the girls have some toys, but we try our best not to give in to every new toy on the market and instead encourage playing outside, making art, playing games together, and playing with the toys they already have. They always have their favorites anyways, don’t they (and the piano makes a great fort)? I don’t remember having a lot of toys. But I do remember always being outside playing, whether in the back yard, over with Timmy, around the block with Terri, or a combination of all the above.

I know you’ve probably heard that old saying about wanting more for your kids than you had as a kid. I wonder if in these days of excess and social media overload if that line of thinking can be a slippery slope. Maybe going back to those simpler days of no internet, no video games, fewer toys and more time playing outside is what our kids, and we, really need. That’s where memories are made.

[Cross posted from Artful Happiness]

Kelly: The Magic of Childhood, Part II

livvie-bw1We hit a major milestone this weekend. We officially have big-girl bikers! We haven’t hit the pavement yet, but they are running laps around the backyard with ease. I guess that’s one benefit to having hard-packed river sand and scrub covering the majority of your backyard. I’m very disappointed to admit I missed “the moment.” Since I’ve been doing the Riverside Arts Market every Saturday, DH has had more time with the girls and has been practicing with them, and while I was sitting in my booth about 2pm Saturday afternoon, they were riding laps around the backyard unassisted for the first time. DH called to tell me. When I got home, they demonstrated for me so I could take pictures. Olivia, being the camera ham she is, was content to ride at least a dozen laps so I could get more and more pictures. Sarah chose to only do two laps and determined that with her glowing natural beauty, that should be sufficient to capture a stunning photo. She then put her skirt back on and pulled her ladybug chair over next to mine to watch Livvie ride.

I couldn’t resist aging these pictures. Watching the girls brought back memories of me learning to ride my bike and the series of black and white pictures my dad took of me. We lived in a big apartment complex in Miami at the time.  My mom worked full time as a nurse while my dad worked odd jobs and went to school.  We didn’t have much money, but I do have many good memories of that time. That’s when my dad and I grew up together. It’s funny how pictures do that for you.  A memory can be lost to time, only to resurface in perfect focus when an old picture crops up to remind you. My bike was bright blue with a white seat and red, white and blue streamers coming off the handlebars. After I outgrew that bike, I got the classic “banana seat” bike, appropriately yellow. Until my parents divorced, I spent nearly a month every summer in Orange Park with my Nana and Granddaddy, and that yellow banana seat bike took me everywhere.

sarah-bwMost of the kids in Nana’s neighborhood were boys, so the tomboy in me grew to full fruition in those days. There was a big hill near Nana’s house and we’d fly down that hill with all we had, always with one of the gang at the bottom of the hill watching for cars. If no cars were coming, that’s when we knew we could safely keep on flying, past Maria’s house, right over Capella Lane and on down to the dead end at the bottom of the hill. There was more than one occasion early on when I got the warning that a car was coming and hit my brakes in a panic, tumbling head over butt in an endo (though apparently not much has changed since I’ve been known to do that on my mountain bike these days as well). That bike took me to the creek back behind Nana’s house and down to the end of the neighborhood to the swimming hole back in the woods…forbidden territory that Nana knew nothing about (or so I thought). I’ll drive back through that neighborhood every now and then when I’m in Orange Park, and the memories of those days are so clear I can still feel the cold water of the swimming hole. I see us all…me, Ricky, Gary, Eddie, Ted, and every once in a while Maria and Sheila…climbing up that oak tree and jumping off its branches into the center of the hole, never worried about what might lie beneath, what might lie beyond, or what might face us the next day. That was childhood at its best. No worries, just fun. What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Kelly: Wonderfully Scary…Change

Nobody warned me. Nobody told me how hard this would be. But fighting back the tears…no, sobs…I found out first hand how hard it is. I’ve told you that my girls start kindergarten next week. We knew that was going to be a hard transition for them. But in looking toward that, I failed to see how hard today, the last day at their current school, would be. Not for them, but for me. They’ve been at this school since they were six months old…babyhood, toddlerhood, pre-school, pre-K…it’s all been there at this wonderful little faith-based school. It’s all we’ve known. And as I signed them in this morning for the last time, the tears that quickly came caught me a little off guard. I hugged Ms. Mary, thanked her for everything she’s done for my girls this year, and then told her we’d be back to visit. Then I went to see Ms. Barbara.

Funny thing about Ms. Barbara. For whatever reason, she moved with the girls every year except this last year for pre-K. She was with them in the baby room; she was with them in the toddler room and the two-year-old room; she and Ms. Belinda were their three-year-old preschool teachers. It wasn’t until pre-K that she was no longer their teacher. Yet every morning when they got there this year, and every afternoon before they’d let DH walk out the door with them, they had to hug Ms. Barbara’s neck.

I have to admit, the first couple of years, Ms. Barbara was not my favorite teacher. She seemed a little hard on the children. But by preschool, I saw how much she truly adored them and they her. Yes, she made them mind, but that was really a good thing, wasn’t it. She helped mold my girls into the well-mannered five-year-olds they are today. So yes, I had to see Ms. Barbara. As I was walking into her classroom, she was sitting down trying to straighten up and prepare for the last big day. When she looked up and saw me, she said, “Oh Lord, not my girls’ Mama, I’ve already been crying enough this morning!” Before she even stood up to give me a hug, we both already had tears streaming down our faces. I wanted to hug a couple more necks but I had to get out of there before I truly started sobbing. Wow. Unexpected…

Change is inevitable. I know that. Yet this thing called parenthood brings in so many new elements to what that change is. I’ve been so anxious for my girls’ making the change, hoping and praying that they’d adjust well, trying to allay their fears by telling them how exciting and fun going to “big girl school” will be, that I completely overlooked my perspective of the change and its effect on me. I sit here this morning a mother, but not the same mother I was yesterday morning. A short fifteen minutes of time changed me this morning. I’m sure this happens to all of us moms at some point. The realization hits that while we can guide and nurture and hope to mold who our children are, ultimately, there are other people in their lives that at times may have an even greater impact, and we are so incredibly blessed that these people have been in our children’s lives. Those are the Ms. Barbara’s and Ms. Belinda’s, the Ms. Tammy’s and Ms. Mary’s, and the Ms. Gaye’s and Ms. Jackie’s and Ms. Tawnda’s of the world. How do we teach our children to say goodbye when we are struggling so terribly with it ourselves? My girls didn’t see my tears this morning. I know after a week or two they’ll adapt just fine, as children always do. But I know they’ll have tears of their own when this realization hits them…when they have children of their own who face a milestone in this wonderfully scary thing called “growing up”. I pray I’m still around to help them through that day.

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