“Mommy, I a baby. I need a baby bottle.”
He giggles as he wades through the mountains of Duplo blocks to my lap. I know what he wants – my undivided attention and the silly sounds of me goo-gooing over his four year old body. When he’s sufficiently tickled he says, “No, Mommy, I a big boy now.” And off he goes to conquer another book or nimbly put together another tower.
So often I’ve found in parenting that the things I say out loud are usually things I never thought I would say to another human. Things like “stop licking that rock!” and “don’t pee on that!” are said so often that I have it said to me on a daily basis – although to be clear I’m not licking rocks or peeing on anything. Warnings about breakables, how fragile babies are, and convincing a little mini-me that washing your hands after going to the bathroom is a) a non-negotiable and b) not torture – these are the bulk of what I say to my boys day in and day out. I like to liberally express my love for them in the midst of all that, but the rest of it feels so silly to say out loud.
Lately we’ve been working on a few things with our older boy – taking responsibility (or understanding what responsibility is), kindness, and understanding how to make decisions out of maturity and understanding instead rewards/consequences. The funny thing about parenting, though, is the fact that when you decide to teach something to your children it will usually come back to bite you. You’ll see how childish your own actions are, you’ll become much more attuned to the silliness and entitlement in your own everyday.
One conversation that seems to be working these days is asking my son if he’s a baby – meaning he has no understanding or physical capabilities on his own – or if he’s a big boy. During the silly play he chooses baby because it means Mommy says silly things and he usually gets wrapped up in big hugs. In the more serious moments he’s faced with having to leave behind the dependency he has with me and start to make decisions based on what he knows is right. He has to pick between having his life lived for him or choosing to branch out into the unknown responsibility of being a big kid. And that’s a hard thing for a four year old to do, but it’s also a hard thing for a 32 year old to do, too.
This weekend was wonderful but there was a lot of frustration woven into it that left me pouty for a lot of Saturday night and Sunday morning. Relationships are hard sometimes, sometimes cars don’t work, sometimes babies wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes grills break, and sometimes the wind won’t die down and stop murdering your newly planted herbs. These are all part of life, and while I realize that life isn’t found IN any of it I often let my life be defined by it. I retreat into that baby-like state of letting my emotions and reactions become dependent on the stuff going on around me, rather than making the big girl choice to move forward.
I think the hardest part of growing up is the constant realization that we’ll never have it all figured out. We’ll never get there – no matter where there is. We’re always a work in progress. And that’s beautiful, except in the moments when it sucks – like yelling at your kids for no good reason or snapping at your husband when he asks you a question.
So this week I’m adding something new to my teaching list – in addition to trying to parent my kids, I’m going to work on parenting myself. Taking the teachings that I know to be true and good and applying them to my life too. Choosing to be a big girl who doesn’t let circumstances define anything, but who allows God to take over and is happy to just be on the ride.
Here’s to being big kids, y’all!