It’s summer break here in Tiny Town, Iowa, and you know what that means. It means that I have to take my kids places with me again, instead of running errands alone during the school day. This is possibly the thing that strikes the most fear into the hearts of mothers everywhere, but something magical happened yesterday when we all loaded into the van (my oldest in the drivers’ seat!) for a trip to the thrift store, the library, the grocery store, and the post office. I had a Thrilling Revelation.
Going places with my children is becoming less stressful as they get older.
I told you it was magical.
My big kids, y’all. They can try on clothes by themselves, navigate the library, meet me at the cash register in ten minutes. They can walk in parking lots without me being afraid for their lives, grabbing them, pulling them close, yelling “watch out!” and “get over here!” a hundred times. They can carry their own stacks of library books and read them on their own when they get home. They can assess whether a shirt fits correctly and sit in the van for a few minutes while I run into the post office. The boys can go off on their own without my worrying about them getting lost or stolen.
Sometimes my children’s growing independence, which seems so noticeable to me all of a sudden, causes me to catch my breath—just a little gasp of shock. How am I now the second shortest person in my family, instead of the second tallest? How am I sitting in the passenger seat while my son drives us around to our errands? How is my youngest now in the tween category of the summer reading program? How are we only a couple years away from senior pictures, college entrance exams, and scholarship applications? Wasn’t it just yesterday that they were all in carseats?
But mostly, I really just love the older kids stage. These kids are amazing. Yesterday, running errands, I never once felt stressed out (other than the obvious, continual stress of supervising a teenage driver). The kids just walked around with me in the stores, or went to look at their own things. They came when I called them, didn’t touch everything, stood quietly while we waited in line, refrained from interrupting my conversation with the librarian, and didn’t ask for all the candy in the line at the grocery store. We went in, we did what needed to be done, we came out; and that was the end of that.
It wasn’t very long ago that running errands with the kids was a highly stressful experience that I avoided whenever possible. I felt like I was taking seventeen octopi into Walmart, instead of three kids, like I was surrounded at all times by a whirlwind of grabbing, whining short people. I had to know where every single-seater bathroom in town was, in case someone had an emergency or an accident. At one point, when one of my children was potty training, I had to carry a plastic toilet around with me in the van, because said child was unable to use public restrooms for various, purely mental reasons. I had diapers and goldfish crackers and sippy cups in my purse and all over the van, and just getting in and out required more patience and agility than anybody should have to have.
We are in a new stage, now, and it has its own stresses that are sometimes overwhelming and terrifying and emotionally draining. But, man, there are good things too, and I don’t ever want to forget that. These kids are fun, and they’re easy to take places, and every one of them is capable of using the bathroom without me.
Thank heaven for big kids.