Thursday, June 10, 2021

Home Grown

I swear it wasn’t that long ago that I had three kids under the age of 3. Sometimes it feels like it was just a few short months ago that I had a toddler wrapped around each leg and a baby in my arms. Only a couple of weeks back that all three could still climb into my lap together for a bedtime story. Just the other day that they were learning to pedal tricycles, ski down the bunny hill, and sound out words.

But somehow, now, my oldest has to bend slightly to hug me, and next week my not-so-little littlest wraps up her elementary school days in a place that’s been a part of our family’s life and daily routine for most of the last decade. She’s ready to move on – the kids always are by the time they’ve progressed from small kindergarteners to almost-teenagers. And I’m calmer about this milestone than I thought I might be, but I’m betting it’ll take a while before I get used to turning the other way, toward a different school, at the bottom of our hill for the daily drop-off and pickup.

I remember standing in the elementary school foyer on the first day of kindergarten for my older two children. Back then, I was used to preschool-sized kids who couldn’t quite pronounce their Rs and were still learning to tie their shoelaces. On that morning, as my two 5-year-olds stuck close to my side, a bit anxious about their first day in the “big school,” the 6th graders seemed enormous and so grown up.

Now, of course, my perspective has shifted. I am used to (although sometimes still surprised by) the still-growing stature of my daughter and her 6th grade classmates, who are all approaching or have already surpassed my height. But those kindergarteners seem so tiny – even if it sometimes seems like last week that my own kids were that small.  

The end of each school year is one of those times when it’s easy to contemplate the changes in our children. Some are moving on from preschool, others – who, really, were learning their shapes and letters in preschool not so long ago – are graduating from high school or (gulp) college. So, their growing up offspring is at the top of many parents’ minds.

When your children are babies, it seems as if everyone – parents of older kids, strangers in the grocery store – tells you to “enjoy every minute,” that it passes quickly. And, on some level, you know they’re right. But then you’re also in the midst of changing diapers and cutting food into tiny pieces and being woken at all hours of the night. It’s exhausting.

All that exhaustion fades into the background, however, when a small human, whose world literally revolves around you, hands you a bouquet of dandelions or blows a kiss from the outfield in a t-ball game or snuggles in with a favorite stuffy for a cuddle – or says in a voice impossibly sweet, “I love you, Mama.”

And the next thing you know, they’re asking for the keys to the minivan so they can go out with their friends. OK, OK, so we’re not quite there yet. But judging by how fast these years seem to go, we’ll get there next week. Or tomorrow. Or five minutes from now. 

Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's June 10, 2021 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record.