I sat quietly by myself in our favorite booth, the one right next to the large glass window that overlooked the play area. As I sipped my iced tea and straightened up from our meal I watched as both my boys found their way over to the shoe cubbies and plopped down on the floor. First, my four-year-old pulled off his shoes and carefully placed them on the shelf, right next to his sun-bleached baseball hat and favorite neon-green sunglass. My two-year-old followed his brother’s lead and gingerly sat down on the rubber floor. He tugged at his slip-on shoes and I watched, expecting I would need to assist him at any moment.
He slid off his shoes with little effort, placed them on a shelf and hoisted himself off the floor. As my Preschooler made his way toward the play structure my Toddler was right on his heels. They both pulled themselves up the foam-padded ladder and waved to me from the top. I swallowed my heart back into my chest; this was the highest my youngest son had ever climbed.
When he got stuck, or scared, how was I going to get him down? Would I fit in the tunnel? Should I find an older child to help me retrieve him when the time comes?
As a family, we’re right smack in the place where everyone is asking us if we’re going to have any more babies. Or, if we want to “try for a girl.” And truthfully, right now – no. We’re enjoying the new skills our oldest child is learning. We find such joy in watching our younger son explore speech as he learns more words. Our family feels complete.
The 2-year-old mark with my first-born son was such a blur. There was a pregnancy and then a newborn, and all the haze that comes with adding a new baby to the family while you’re raising a toddler. Now, in this season with a 4 and 2-year old I keep finding myself saying, “this is a fun age – I really like this.”
But there’s something so tender about watching your final baby tick off the milestones. Knowing that it’s the “last first” you’ll experience. It’s thrilling and slightly heartbreaking to see them grow and find independence.
As my boys crawled deeper into the play area I lost sight of them. My Preschooler quickly reappeared and waved excitedly from a window overhead. I gave it a moment and then prepared myself to leave my seat if my younger son didn’t find his way to the same window soon. Just as I was about to rise from the booth, I spotted his green shirt through the very window I had my eyes glued to. I did my best to ignore the hum of the restaurant as I listened for the low sound of his cry.
But it never came.
I exhaled, sipped my tea and picked up my phone. They are fine. I keep telling myself this as I try to scroll through emails. But it feels wrong. I can’t be at this place yet – they still need me, right? Before, taking my eyes off them for just a moment usually resulted in having to immediately intervene in some sort of chaotic scramble over Paw Patrol figurines.
Now, I watch as my oldest son comes barreling down the slide in a fit of giggles. His younger brother, who’s sharing the same fit of giggles, slides down behind him. I poke my head into the play area, try to sound breezy as I ask,” You guys OK in here, everything good?”
And they race back to the ladder for another round.
I’m left sitting on the vinyl bench, alone, a lot stunned and a little sad.
Tomorrow will no doubt be completely different. We’ll bounce back and forth between this place of utter confidence and independence – to sleepless nights spent rubbing backs and days drying tears. Where I once spent daydreams fanaticizing about reclaiming my body, my mind and my time – now I’m faced with a preview of what lies ahead.
Part of raising children is fostering independence and guiding their growth into self-aware young people. But darn if it doesn’t sting a little when they don’t need you. After years of giving so much, so often now I get a ‘YEA.MOM’ tossed in my general direction.
I wrestle with the duality of celebrating and mourning this newfound chapter. In my head, I know this must come to pass, but my Mama Heart is not quite ready to turn the page on the familiar rhythms of life we’ve led thus far.
They grew up a little that day, and I did too.
Flagstaff Moms Blog presents Candid Motherhood as a movement to recapture and record our story.