Cassidy (7yo) and Tye (5yo) came downstairs wearing underwear on their heads, over their clothes, and around their legs. We all got a good laugh, the kids put their underwear back in their drawers, and we sat down to dinner. Cassidy said, “I had EIGHT pair of underwear on me, including the pair on my privates.”
…”At least I didn’t say vagina or penis or butt.”
Kids. They all have ‘em… those quirks that drive us nuts as parents. The ones that make us tilt our heads to the side, squint our eyes a little, and actually pause for a moment as a thought bubble with a question mark appears above our heads. They can be frustrating, mind-blowing, funny, irritating, and endearing all at the same time. Therefore, as I leave 2015 behind, I couldn’t help but reflect on 6 quirks that I know I’m going to miss as my children inevitably, thankfully, and – heartbreakingly – grow up.
1) Open Discussions About Private Parts – Having 2 children in school now, I can honestly say that I know very few children who enjoy openly taking about genitalia as much as mine. Even my children acknowledge that they talk about private parts excessively (see quote at top of blog). This reality was epitomized for me when I got an email from my son’s teacher this fall. We had been experiencing some difficulty with… let’s call it impulse control. I had written an email asking how Tye’s day was, and his teacher replied, “We’re still working on listening skills and keeping hands to ourselves. He also yelled “vagina” rather loudly at some point, but that’s one of those outburst things he and I are working on.”
One of those “outburst things.” I laughed out loud until I literally had tears. I posted it to Facebook. I texted all my friends. Is it ok that my son yelled “vagina” in his JK class? No, probably not. But am I going to miss those kinds of emails from his teacher?
You’d better believe it.
2) Jingle Bells in June – Kids love repetition. Most parents have a movie or two (or 5) that they would probably like to chuck off a skyscraper because some Disney Princess sings them to sleep every night, or interrupts their work, or suddenly disturbs an otherwise peaceful downward dog. All last year my kids insisted on the same 4 tracks from Frozen on the way to and from school every day. Believe me… there was little that I wanted more than to Let It Go. This year, it’s Ghostbusters, Gangnam Style, and Fireball by Pitbull (don’t judge me). They want the same songs, over and over and over and over (you get the picture).
Almost everything that little kids do is new to them, so there is a comfort in familiarity that I believe is important to nurture. Sometimes, those jags last for a few months. But sometimes they go on for far longer.
I sing to my children every night. My daughter usually wants me to sing Godspeed to her because it is long and I scratch her back while I sing. That said, she doesn’t care if I have to switch it up because it’s late and she needs sleep. My son, however, has wanted me to sing Jingle Bells to him every night since he was 2.
He’s 5 now.
The funny thing is that I’m not sick of it. Shockingly, I don’t hate the song. I think maybe it’s because I know that the day will come when he doesn’t want to hear it anymore. And when that day comes, I think I’m going to miss Jingle Bells in June.
3) Tripping Over Toys – I complain about toys everywhere as much as the next mom. When my daughter was a toddler, I stepped on a wooden block in the dark and actually broke two toes. Fairy wings, monster trucks, and tiaras are as prevalent i
I recognize that I am no different from the next mom here. From what I can tell, all children are adorable, destructive beasts. So why am I going to miss the mess?
I won’t. But I will miss the monster trucks and the mermaids. I will miss knowing that I have children whose imaginations still bring dolls and vehicles to life. I will miss the “VROOOOM!” and the “SPLASH!” sounds that echo from the basement when they play. I will miss the little beeping, flashing reminders that I have children who are still young enough to ask me why the sky floats, or who made up the 3-second rule. Right now, I might swear when I step on a Lego piece or trip on a ball. So no, I won’t miss the mess.
But I will miss the toys.
4) Beauty in the Simple Things – “Wow, I wish we had THAT MANY dandelions in our yard!” When my daughter said this at age 6, my first reaction was to laugh… and then I felt nothing but gratitude for the short-lived gift of seeing the world through her innocent eyes. The joy of finding a penny in a parking lot is lost somewhere along the line, and I don’t know when that happens… but I know it’s not before the age of 7. Being allowed to eat the whole cookie. Wearing a snorkel mask in the bathtub. Being overjoyed at the thought of staying up late on a school night. The giggles that spill out everywhere at the mention of the word “butt.”
Kids pretending to be elves on the shelf
But at no time is this kind of pure appreciation more prevalent than during the Christmas season. Even I am excited when the children wake up the first morning after the elves have arrived. The magic is tangible. The kids drink their nutritional breakfast milkshakes quickly every morning through the month of December, knowing that their advent calendar chocolate awaits them when they’re done. Not once did they forget to move the candy cane on the hanging countdown-to-Christmas calendar. No one has to teach a kid to shake a present or study its shape to guess what’s inside… we all just naturally do it. The wonder, the excitement, the magic – the beauty in the simple things. It’s there every day, in the things they say and do. Sometimes, when I’m tired or particularly grumpy, I may have to look a little harder than I do on other days.
But it’s always there.
5) Honesty Without Filtration – With any luck at all (and maybe a small miracle), my kids will still be honest with me when they are teens. I am not foolish enough to think they will tell me everything – nor do I want them to tell me everything. I believe it’s healthy for them to have secrets. But I am hopeful that my kids will know that they can say, “Mom, I really don’t want to talk about that with you,” rather than lie to me. In exchange, I hope that I will be able to respect their privacy, trust them, and leave well enough alone when my curiosity gets the best of me after my kid’s first date.
For now, however, I bask in the wonderful innocence that allows them to speak without filters. Sometimes, it is brutal honesty about my ridiculous loyalty to Cleveland sports teams:
(9/26/2015, while watching a Browns game)
“I hurt my finger, Mama.”
Me (to no one in particular) – “Being a Browns fan is so painful.”
Cassidy – “Why? Because they’re so good?”
Me (shaking my head) – “No, baby.”
Cassidy – “I was trying to be nice, Mama. That’s why I said ‘good.’”
Sometimes – oftentimes – it is hysterical honesty about body parts:
(12/1/2015 – a conversation with my son in which he references a friend’s uncircumcised penis)
Tye (5yo) – “My penis is getting long this morning. It’s really nervous.”
Me – “Yeah, that happens sometimes in the mornings.”
Tye – “But did you know that X’s penis looks like an asparagus? But you don’t eat it. That would be disgusting.”
“And mine looks like a hot dog.”
I can hope and wish all I want for honest relationships with my kids when they grow up. But there will be no discussions that will ever come close to approximating these. I will miss this innocent honesty, probably more than almost anything else.
6) Wait – What Did You Just Say? – If the honest quotes weren’t enough to bring me to tears (both happy and nostalgic-sad), then I always have the misquotes. All parents know that kids experiment with language as they hear it. My son is currently in the process of trying to figure out how to accurately use the word “threaten” in a sentence. Why, you ask? Because he hears Mama say, “Don’t threaten me, young man,” every time he says, “Well, if you won’t give that to me, then I’ll just…” (enter Mama’s quote). I have seen more than one parent try desperately to distract their child in a store after hearing their sweet toddler echo a 4-letter-word they heard at dinner the night before. Not only do kids quote us, however, they also misquote us. They hear an expression or some colloquialism that is unfamiliar to them, and they try to make sense of it. In doing so, they wind up saying something that is hysterically wrong. To wrap up 2015, I thought I might summarize a few of my favorite misquotes from the year:
The other night at dinner, we were talking about the visit to the pet store we had made:
Cassidy (7yo) – “I really hope we get the bunny. Mama put a hold on it.”
Tye (5yo) – “WHAT??? Mama put a HOLE in it??”
(At the drugstore)
Cassidy – “Can we get these kind of band aids?”
Me – “No. We need the sensitive skin kind. Those will cause you guys to break out.”
Cassidy (searching shelves and finding princess ones) – “Will these cause us to freak out?”
Kids were “planning” all the animals they want to have over the coming years as we drove to school. Cassidy was writing her plan in a book, including first a dog, then a bunny, then a horse, then another bunny, then another cat. She asked what other pets there are and the conversation went like this:
Me – “There are ferrets.”
Cassidy – “A parrot! That’s a good idea.”
Me – “Not a parrot. A ferret.”
Tye – “I wanna get a carrot!”
Me – “Not a carrot. A ferret.”
Cassidy – “I’m putting down parrot.”
Tye – “Do carrots fly?”
On the way to school:
Cassidy – “Why does Zachary call you Aunt Shannon?”
Me – “Because he’s our Godson.”
Cassidy – “So does that make him our Godbrother?”
Me – “I suppose it does.”
Tye – “Wait. He’s God’s brother?”
A random conversation just this month on the way to school:
Tye – “Did you know peacock feathers are venomous?”
Me – Who told you that?”
Tye – Aren’t they? Well, if you eat them, they are. If you eat them, you will get hairy balls.”
Me (choking) – “WHAT did you just say?”
Tye – “If you eat them, you will get hairy balls.”
Cassidy (quite seriously) – “You mean hairballs, Tye.”
So there you have it. Six things that I will undoubtedly miss as my children grow up. On reflection, I have to admit that there are so many things for which I am grateful, but the greatest one from 2015 is that I made the decision to be home and be a part of these conversations moving forward. I know how fortunate I was to have a job that I believed in, and to work with people who (mostly) appreciated and respected me. I was so fearful to walk away from that job… from the income, but also from the people whom I considered to be my friends. In the end, the truth of the matter was that I had been sacrificing so much – for years. My dreams of becoming a writer, my love of music, my health… but mostly my time with my children. I can only imagine the number of funny quotes I missed because I was on the road. Don’t get me wrong – I have big respect for working moms, just as I do for SAHMs. I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to do both, and I’m thankful that I can now be a more active part of their early years. I don’t have that much longer before questions about private parts will be too embarrassing to ask. Tye might want a different song at bedtime – or, eventually, no song at all. Mermaids will no longer sit by the bathtub, and trucks will no longer litter the floors. The simple things will no longer be plain as day, honesty will have a filter, and misquotes… well, they rarely happen when the kids are old enough to understand everything they hear.
My kids are 5 and 7. I can’t help feeling like I just don’t have that much longer before they’re grown.
And since I can’t stop the clock, the best that I can do is to be present at every tick.
Here’s to 2016. May we all enjoy every moment.