On Saturday, the kids’ school had a movie night. They did private showings of two new movies at a local theater. It was really fun, and the kids loved seeing movies with all their friends. I think “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was attended by the entire third grade…go figure. Lots of parental eyes rolled at that choice.
As we all milled about in the lobby after the movies, families started making impromptu dinner plans. We couldn’t really go with any of our friends, because I had promised my dad I’d cook him a nice dinner. Jack was getting tired and wanted to come home with us. Two family friends, though, invited Caroline to tag along with them.
Caroline and her little cronies had a fantastic time. Dinner, dessert, antics, giggles. She was beaming when she came home. Late. (This detail is solely in defense of the fact that I was already in bed. A night owl I am not).
Then she crawled into bed next to me and said, “I shouldn’t have gone.”
“Why? I thought you had fun.”
“I had fun. I had so much fun. But I missed you.”
I gave her a giant hug and told her I was glad she had gone, and I thought it was important for her to go do those things. Pretty soon she was over the missing me part and was regaling me with stories of the night (one of which included her hitting her head on a public toilet…I didn’t even ask what that was about).
After she went to bed, I thought about what is happening to her. I realized that she’s growing up.
She’s caught between being the little girl who wants to stay close to her mommy and the big girl who wants to go out with her friends. She longs for independence but it scares her. She feels something old and familiar slipping away from her as she recognizes something new and unknown coming toward her. She’s the little girl who wants me to scratch her back and read her stories, but she’s also the nine year old who wants to shut her bedroom door when her friends come over.
Wow. I never thought I’d see this struggle so clearly. And me? I’m trying to let her go, but it’s really, really hard. That child – both children – are pieces of me. I can honestly say I am astounded, daily, by the depth of my love for them. I think it’s horrible irony that if you’re a good parent and you love your kids and nurture them well, they will grow up and away from you. It’s such a paradox; I get sad that they’re getting older, and yet I am so proud of them, and happy to see their independence and life skills.
She’s going to grow up, and so is Jack.
It is my most fervent prayer that they live joyful, healthy, independent lives.
It’s my second most fervent prayer that they think of me often and call home. A lot.
And come to dinner.
I told you I was having a midlife crisis.