Last night Mary and I had a mommy-daughter dinner date. I often hear about the value of one-on-one time with kids, especially for kids in large families, but our family almost never does that sort of thing. Honestly? Between me and you? WHO HAS TIME? (Especially in large families!)
But, as expected, dinner was really great. As we walked through the parking lot, we chatted about a difficult relationship Mary is working through. This particular situation is really calling my 8-year-old to be mature and humble in ways that I still struggle with.
As we walked into the restaurant, Mary asked if we could stop talking about it and instead talk about a book series she recently read. Good call, girl. I do tend to belabor issues. But Mary? Wise beyond her years. Let’s talk about books.
While we ordered, Mary noticed that there were a lot of teenagers in the restaurant. This is the sort of thing I wouldn’t notice if it weren’t for Mary, who is at this time quite distracted and fascinated by the animal that is the teenager. Mary mentioned the teenagers more than once, and I noticed that she stood a little taller, perhaps they might think she was a bit older than her eight years.
“You know, Mary,” I suggested. “We could pretend to be teenagers.”
We laughed together at the suggestion. MOM, pretending to be a teenager! With her skinny jeans and side part!?!??!?! TRY AGAIN!!!
I’m acutely aware that Mary is not a teen. I’ve been warned since the day I started walking around Kroger with a baby strapped to my chest that the teen years were the years to fear. You think the 24-hour schedule of feeding and diapering is tough? You’re struggling NOW!? HA!!!!! Wait till they’re TEENS!
When I had newborn Mary, I was often in tears because I was just so, so tired. All I wanted was to hear it gets easier. Well, guess what, self? One day you’ll go to dinner with this girl and you’ll talk about books and hard friendships and challenges in school. Parenting is never easy, but it changes and grows. It doesn’t stay the same; you will not be in same this trench forever.
I don’t know what the teen years will be like, but for now I’m choosing to ignore the lore. All I can do is look at what’s in front of me: a little girl who’s maturely wading through big problems, who loves books, and is thrilled by lemonade with dinner.
She’ll change; that’s what kids do. But what I have is a little girl who aches to appear grown up, all the while exhibiting the very grown-up qualities of wisdom and vulnerability that I wish I had when I was 20. (Also, I’d like to note that she now reliably sleeps through the night, thank you Jesus.)
Yesterday Mary came home from school and told me that her teacher’s baby HATES tummy time. “What is tummy time, Mom? Did we do tummy time?”
“YES!” I responded. “And ALL BABIES hate tummy time. Except you. You loved tummy time.”
Then I pulled up this blog post and read to her, “Mary Virginia is amazing at tummy time. She will do tummy time, no joke, for a half hour straight. She can finally smile and look around without smashing her head to the floor, and a few days ago she did her first chest-only baby push-up. Not only is she strengthening her back and neck muscles during tummy time, but I can put her down on the floor, and when I come back she’s organized my recipe box and folded my laundry.”
She didn’t get that part about folding my laundry. “I organized your recipe box? When I was a baby?” she asked.
No, I explained. But a baby who loves tummy time is about as likely as a baby that can fold a load of laundry. You were one in a million.
Then we read the rest of the post, all the way to the end where I write about her falling asleep in my arms and how I spent the rest of the afternoon holding her, staring at her.
These moments are exactly why I blog; so I won’t forget. Holding her as an infant, a dinner pretending to be teenagers, standing in the kitchen talking about tummy time. Every day with kids is full of moments like that.