Last night, after I had turned out the lights, I was laying in bed thinking, as one does, and I realized that I am woefully unprepared for the future.
I’m not talking about the zombie apocalypse. I’m not thinking of what will happen if the Misogynist Bigot Party in the US actually wins the election today. I’m not referring to my upcoming dentist’s appointment (although, to be fair, it would not kill me to floss more.)
I was thinking about my girl growing up.
She was feeling pretty snuggly yesterday. She’s normally a very huggy, snuggly kid anyway. She loves to hug her friends, and greets them and leaves them often with a glad embrace. She will curl up and cuddle with her Grammy and watch television, quite happily, if a bit fidgety. And she loves to curl up with Daddy or snuggle up on Mom’s lap and watch a movie or an episode of Time Team before bed.
It was the first real cold day, one that hovered around 5 degrees. You could feel the chill of winter weather coming. Stinkerbelle had her swimming lesson yesterday afternoon, and for the first time all year it was a little bit chilly out on the pool deck. While we waited for her lesson to start, she climbed onto my lap to snuggle, and I wrapped her up in my arms to keep her warm. She was a snugglebug.
Yesterday evening, we sat at the dinner table, and Dad had put a couple of TED Talks on his iPad to watch while he finished his supper (being as Dad is always the last to finish dinner, and That Girl and I like to keep ourselves amused while waiting for him to finish). Stinkerbelle climbed up into my lap to cuddle while we watched, with her head on my chest or her face nuzzled into my neck. Occasionally, she would wrap her arms around my neck and hug me tight, and say, “I love you Mommy”.
So last night, as I was laying in bed thinking about the day, I realized that these moments of cuddling and snuggling and closeness are soon going to become fewer and further between. As That Girl gets older, and more independent, and she goes to school and gets into her own activities, she’s going to want to snuggle and feel close to me less frequently, less urgently. She’s going to spend less time with me and more time being who she is and doing what she wants. She’s going to need me less.
If I am doing my job well, she will.
And I realized, I am not prepared for that yet. As she is our only child, we get only one shot at these times. And before we had a child, this part of parenting is one of the things I really looked forward to — to the cuddling, the snuggling, the closeness. And just thinking of the possibility that one day she’s not going to want to climb into my lap and cuddle or whatever makes me sad. I get the tingle in my nose and the sting behind my eyes.
I am not prepared. And it’s comforting to know that most parents feel this way.
Today, I was chatting with one of the moms of one of Stinkerbelle’s classmates. Jamie is one of That Girl’s best friends, a sturdy little fellow whose mom spent almost half the year last year sitting in class (while heavily pregnant) trying to convince Jamie to stay in class, and not cry, and let her go home. This year, however, Jamie is blossoming and gaining independence, and is positively buzzing with excitement to go to school. He rushes into class and, hand in hand, he and Stinkerbelle are off and running and playing.
And so his mom and I got to talking today, the first day I have seen her in a long time. Normally she stays home with her new son, but her husband has gone home to Kenya for a month and so she is DOING ALL THE THINGS! And today, I think it got to her, too, the fact that suddenly Jamie is growing up and starting to take his first steps away from her. She was struck by the complete difference between last year and his reluctance to go to school and be separated from Mom and Dad, and this year where he’s off and running and ready to go. And she’s feeling the pangs of sadness, the wistfulness at the thought that her little boy is growing to be too big to sit and cuddle anymore.
We know, that no matter how much we wish it could be otherwise, that if we are doing a good job, they will want to grow and learn and be independent. And we know that if we are doing our jobs well, there will be new and wonderful ways that we will still feel close and connected. Different, but good.
But it doesn’t make it any easier.
And so as we chatted about schools and what is to come next year and that sort of thing, we both said we don’t want to rush our kids. We want them to take their time, to not grow up too fast. And although we want what’s best for them, we of course had to admit that part of us knows it’s a little bit of a selfish wish, too.
We both want the absolute best for our kids, the two little pals. But we also know how hard it is to let them go and grow and be independent to find that best.
Eventually we came to the conclusion that the more our kids go to school and develop and change and grow, we have a lot to learn and some growing to do, too.
I’m not prepared. But I will learn to be. It’ll take a lot of snuggling along the way, though.