This post may seem like that most insidious of things, a humble brag, but it’s not. For one thing, I take no credit. For another thing, the writing served two purposes—it reminds me of what really matters at the end of the parenting day and it leads into my next blog. Naturally.
It’s been a summer marked by change. Of course, children change most of all. And, when I think of their milestones at age nine-turning-ten and six, at first I think of all their achievements at school, celebrated so thoroughly in May and June.
More recently, I remember how startled I've been when we sit together at a meal and I think, How tall they look! Then comes the second, heart-bursting and stomach-dropping thought: They’re not sitting on their feet. It’s amazing when they grow like that. I look over, startled, and then just admire what they’ve done. Getting taller. All on their own. Wow.
But this summer, like seashells, I’ve been collecting other little markers that, in the end, mean more to me. It all began when we went to our favorite Italian place for a meal. As the hostess turned to collect menus and lead us to the table, she knocked her notebook onto the floor. Faster than I could think, Little A. leapt forward, picked it up, and cheerfully said, “Here you go.”
Something inside me said, This is important.
My heart nearly burst with pride. I realized that this act of kindness truly meant more to me than his report card. I filed that reminder away for the future, for the times when I need to choose parenting priorities.
And then we’ve also had an abundance of small ones in our lives this summer. Dear friends had a beautiful baby girl in the spring and other babies have crossed our path. One sweet girl, about a year old, played with us for nearly an hour at the beach one day. I say “us”—she really played with S. and Little A.
As soon as we arrived, S. laid out a beautiful and elaborate sand project. As she sculpted away, the little one toddled up. Right away, S. saw that the baby and her pudgy fists of destruction were heading for her sand city.
Calmly, sweetly, cheerfully, our tween started making quick sand castles between the baby and her project. She built tower after tower for that baby to smash, moving on to tunnels and buried feet when the baby’s interest waned. Little A. joined in at times. They had a blast, even though S. never did finish her beautiful sand-sculpting project that day.
Again, the voice inside told me to pay attention.
The remarkable thing about both these incidents—and other sweet moments I’ve stored away this summer—is that I did nothing. Neither did their dad.
On vacation, Little A., bundle of energy, runner-into-walls, thrower of things, hurdler of obstacles, never-say-die, all-around tough kid, played with another toddler in the baby pool. He gently, sweetly, and patiently tossed a beach ball over and over, responding to the baby’s cues. Later that night, Big A. asked me how the kid learned to do that.
I stumbled around, looking for an answer, but in the end, I had to say, “I guess he learned it from the way he was treated when he was little.”
I thought about the wonderful teens who have stayed with the kids when we couldn’t, the teens and big kids who’ve shown delight in our kids—at school, at church, in scouting, at the do jang—and I thought what a wonderful gift they’ve given us.
They’ve shown our kids that big people have fun taking care of little people.
More on that in my next post, which will be my first blog by request!