Hindsight Parenting: A Child’s Growing Independence Brings Change
The Winds of Change
She swings by herself. Grabs the chains that hold the brown plastic rectangle that serves as a seat. Her muscular arms pull her up deftly and her bottom plops down. Her legs that are a full two inches longer than they were in June start to pump. Feet flex as her legs straighten and toes point as legs fold. Soon, very soon, actually unbelievably soon, she has a momentum that would satisfy any child. I am sitting in the swing next to her and she is chattering away about the dog and his bone and the hole he dug, but I am lost in the sight of her wispy hair and the way it covers her round cheeks as the swing takes her back and wiggles in the air like an octopus’s tentacles as the swing moves her forward.
“Slow down,” I long to say, but I know it isn’t about the swing. It’s not about the swing at all.
The summer’s warm winds have wafted in a season of change for my daughter. I started to notice it when she told me an epic secret a few weeks back. “You know mom,” she whispered with a wry smile, “when you and daddy are still asleep in the morning, I go to the refrigerator and get myself a juice box!” She squealed at the end of this exclamation somehow picturing herself as a successful spy or cat burglar. And while that statement may seem banal to most reading it, to us, my husband and I, it represents a change, a daring independence that our daughter hadn’t possessed before. Since she’s been in a regular bed, each morning was spent waking daddy and snuggling with him on the couch watching her favorite morning family program. Every morning the same 6 steps to the bed. The same ten steps to the living room. The same snuggle on the couch. The same request after about a half hour, “Daddy, can I have breakfast?” Now…well now she’s gotten her own breakfast before daddy’s feet even touch the floor.
There have been other things. Some are subtle. She has transitioned from a toddler’s car seat with all it’s buckles and snaps and gadgets to a seat that simply uses the seatbelt from the car. The freedom is intoxicating to her. The fluidity of the belt allows her to lean over, put the window down and stick her arm out. She battles the moving air to keep it from blowing her arm backwards and opens her fingers to let the wind blow through. She’s outgrown the crib mattress that doubled as her first “big girl” bed and we will soon have to buy her a new mattress and put her in a “real” bed. My heart breaks a bit because the television is no longer cemented to to our traditional family program and its innocence. She has moved on to another “cooler” station and says she never wants to watch the other channel again. And just yesterday, we went to the mall to buy her some school clothes and she told me that she didn’t just want to go to one store, but wanted to “browse” in a lot of stores before deciding on what to spend her money.
Other changes have been monumental. At her request, she is learning to read, really read. Her repertoire of sight words grows by the day and it thrills her beyond all measure. She is also determined to swim. She throws caution and her innate fear of the water to the wind and tries with all her might to get her brain to sync her arms and legs together so that she can be free of the confines of her swim coach’s safe hands. At the barn, they have taken the lead rope off her beloved pony, Lukey. She is in charge now. She steers. She starts him and stops him. She is learning to ride at different speeds. Using a voice with strength I have never heard come out of her, she commands, “TROT, LUKEY! TROT!” And that ever present wind blows as Lukey’s white mane waves like a flag of surrender.
“Slow down,” I long to say, but I know it isn’t about the pony’s speed.
You see, experience tells me that someday the winds of change will take her away from us. I know…that it’s natural and what we want for our children, but she will go. Maybe it will be to a place where I can’t reach her or maybe it will be a merciful wind that will guide her far but keep her close. Whatever it will be, I know that it will start slow; staying with friends overnight, not coming home after school because of sports or clubs or just plain hanging out. When home, she’ll burrow down in the finished basement with her books and phone and computer. She’ll reach an age where the chattering that fills this house and my heart will be reduced to one word answers and possibly even grunting (although I am not quite sure if the grunting is just a boy thing…). But she’ll go–blown away by age to college, to see the world, to start a band, possibly she’ll go to get away from us. We can never know where those growing winds will take her. Hindsight has been a firm teacher on that fact.
So now, in this moment, and subsequent ones where the wind is still a breeze that’s a mere whisper in her ear, I will fiercely treasure sitting next to her on a swing. I will adore the couch moments with her head resting on my hip. I will breathe in the hugs and kisses and ‘I love you’s’ that come without warning or forethought. I will be there with a laser-like presence for those seemingly small moments like washing the car as a family and getting into a soap bubble fight, or when she grabs her father’s hand and squeals with delight as they both run away from the mommy-monster wielding the cold-water hose. I will memorize the smell of her hair after a bath and even the protestations of my brush trying to undo those dastardly tangles. I will continue to dance the hand-holding-crazy-kitchen-dances to raucous music as long as she’ll have me.
And when the times comes, I will let go finger by finger by finger so that she can fly where the wind will take her hoping that she knows we’re here with open arms, listening ears and a loving heart whenever the wind leads her back.
[Photo credit: (cc) Ruben Steeman]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.