I still have five point harness car seats in my life.
This is how I console myself when my three-year-old who wears five-year-old clothing crawls into my arms, and I feel like I’m holding a scarecrow mockery of the baby that was. With two baby-hoods behind me and no intention of adding a third or fourth to the family, I am finding myself both elated and devastated as we one by one cut the lines that anchor us to the baby shore.
Snap, goes the morning-afternoon nap trap.
Snap, goes the diaper bag with nursing cover, sippy cups, plastic jangly toys, and wipes.
Snap, goes the pack and play.
Snap, goes the adorable soft-soled shoes.
Snap, goes the jogging stroller.
Snap, goes the safety gates on the steps.
Snap, goes the baby monitor.
We are official bobbing seaward into the sunrise of elementary years. Even now, as Miss C rushes all puppy-kneed and bouncing-curls into preschool, I find myself holding the preschool anchor line in slack hands because it’s only a matter of years, days, no, minutes really, until Snap, goes preschool.
Miss I has really charted new territory the past few months. While just this past summer we were still “talking in voice” and holding long conversations with Winnie the Pooh and all the Hundred Acre Wood friends, Peter Pan, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and just about every Neverland Fairy invented by the Disney brains, now we hold conversations about how Oliver told her to find him at recess but he forgot he had an early dismissal so she looked and looked for him and then when there was five minutes left of the fifteen minute recess she finally found him and so they played together and he was jumping up and down like this.
Last night at bedtime, Miss I had a meltdown. The kind where her whole face literally melts in runny nose and eyes. All because she had been promised a post-bath Lego-building session, and we unwise parents unwisely tried to skip it to move straight to bed.
At first I defaulted to the parenting strategies that have been in place for the last six years. A meltdown is a temper tantrum is a time out is a door closed is a consequence waiting in the wings. Except I realized with a jolt that we haven’t talked in voice in quite awhile. I keyed into her melty, oozy face and thought, “This is not my preschooler. She helped me strip the beds the other day. She doesn’t talk to fairies anymore.”
So James and I looked at each other, huddled in our little family boat, looked around at the unfamiliar ocean surrounding us, the ragged anchor lines trailing in our wake. We shrugged. Time to try something new.
If we think we’ve mastered the art of parenting, we’ve fooled ourselves. We’ve mastered yesterday’s art of parenting. We’ve gotten really, really good at helping her give voice to fairies and imaginary stuffed animals and little boys who refuse to grow up. Voices that are now getting rusty from disuse.
For today, when our almost-seven-year-old has her heart broken over a promise and a half-finished Lego project, we’re just as much the lost novices we were when we first beheld the horror that she could create in a diaper smaller than a handkerchief (and good Lord, why has someone not invented industrial-strength wipes or at least an infant-sized power washer?)
For today’s parenting, we’re just hoping that a wind will catch in our sails, and we’ll find a safe port on the other side of the ocean stretching before us.
That, and I still have a five-point harness carseat in my life, thanks to Miss C. Not all anchor ties are cut just yet.