A strange thing has been happening lately. I’ve had time to myself. Time to do actual things that I like to do, instead of just the usual things I do for small, sticky people with questionable manners. I’ve been getting more sleep, I read a whole book last week, and I’m all tangled up in more than one show on Netflix. For a few minutes yesterday I even thought I felt bored, but it turned out I was just getting a cold.
At first, I was alarmed about this increased me-time. Obviously, I’d forgotten to do something. Or maybe several somethings. Had I left the children somewhere? They had a playdate down the street a few weeks ago…did I ever pick them up? Had my husband taken a new wife who was now doing all the things? If he did, let’s hope she’s a better cook than the first Mrs. Shields.
The Mystery of More Me-Time for Mom was solved when I accompanied my daughters to the Pastries with Parents event at their school last week. Walking into the building from the parking lot, I tried to hold their hands but they both pulled away and moved a few feet ahead of me.
“Fine then,” I thought, “I’ll hold my own hand.” Except that’s not a thing, so I just hoped they had strong coffee to go with the pastries.
In the gymnasium, we selected our donuts and beverages (there was coffee, thank goodness) and found a table. One of my oldest daughter’s friends and her mother joined us a few minutes later. I hadn’t met this friend, so I introduced myself to her in what I thought was a totally chill way.
“Hi! I’m her mom, Nikki. What’s your name?” My first born’s eyes expanded to the size of pancakes and she shrunk down into her seat like she hoped the floor would swallow her whole.
The friend smiled and introduced herself and her mom. My daughter quickly relaxed and things were back to normal. Until I dared to speak again.
“You both have long hair – I wonder if [friend] argues with her mom about having to brush hers?”
The other mom nodded her head and looked at me knowingly, but my child deemed this over the line.
“Mo-om!” The pancake-sized eyes were back.
With this one word broken into two syllables, I realized that my first baby girl had reached that precious stage where I can completely embarrass her without even trying.
The My Kids Are Growing Up Reality Check didn’t stop there – I tried to wipe chocolate frosting off my 5-year-old’s face when she was done but she announced that she could do it herself. Then she showed me her classroom but quickly urged me out the door, telling me she “had things to do to start her day.”
The girls’ behavior at the school that morning explained everything – I’ve had more time on my hands because my kids are growing up and doing more for themselves. I can embarrass them and they have their own little lives outside of me now. My first instinct was to be sad that my babies didn’t need me anymore but after about three very dark and melancholic seconds, I realized that was ridiculous. The goal of parenting is to teach your child how to do everything for themselves, is it not? So, that means IT’S WORKING! All the craziness and chaos and hard work and frustration and heartbreak and exhaustion are paying off: My kids are learning to do the things.
However, while they might be older and more independent and more easily embarrassed, they aren’t completely done with me. My oldest daughter, almost fully recovered from her first case of Parent Induced Humiliation, showed me her classroom too. I looked around and then mindful of her classmates’ watchful eyes and her newly developed sensitivity, I patted her on the shoulder and told her to have a good day. I turned toward the door to leave but a loud whisper behind me told me my work here isn’t done.
I wrapped my arms around my 8-going-on-15-year-old daughter and gave her the hug of a lifetime, which she returned in full force.
“Okay Mom, you have to leave now.” And she hurriedly shoved me out the door.