My babies are no longer babies.
They are growing crazy fast, and it seems this growth has been on hyper speed this month. Maybe that's because I am with all three all day long now, with the new routine of lazy summer days firmly taking over the structured mornings and afternoons of the school year. Now I really have the time to see them, watch them, laugh with them all day long.
Alec just wormed his way out of a terrible few weeks of not eating, sleeping poorly, behaving terribly and throwing fits at the slightest provocation. And then all of a sudden- bam!- he's back to our easy going, utterly pleasant kid, who suddenly looks about two inches taller and is incredibly conversational. Yes, after seven and a half months of working, praying, fretting, and worrying, the speech development is in high gear. We've gone from two word sentences to five word sentences ("Gordon is a very big engine", all while making a diamond shape with his thumb and first finger, which is Alec Sign Language for the word big), repeating what we said to answering yes and no correctly, and even telling us stories about things that have happened to him ("Pinched my finger in Gammie's pantry door"), places he's been (we took him to the locks of the Erie Canal and he hasn't stopped telling us about it: "Door opens loud, boat goes in, doors close, water goes up, other door opens, boat goes out...") and pointing out stores and playgrounds when we pass them while riding in the car (whenever we see a Lowe's, he says, "Go there with Daddy... see tractors and bafrooms!" There is a black toilet there that Dan says he is utterly fascinated with). He is so much happier being able to tell us when he wants and what rules are in place for the day- he may be pleasant, but there is a very certain way he likes to do things- and it just makes him seem like the preschooler he is about to become in two months as opposed to the seven month old baby that I always imagine him as in my head. Yesterday I said to him, "Hey, baby!" in my best Elvis voice and he laughed and giggled about that all day and repeated it back to me multiple times.
And then we have Miss Jenna.
Besides losing a front tooth a few weeks ago, which changed how she looked and totally freaked me out, she has also recently begun mastering riding a two wheeler. She hops on that bike and takes off with her hair flying behind her and is just so proud of this accomplishment. She going into 2nd grade, after all, and is no longer a little kid... she is dipping her toe into bigger kid-dom, growing taller and lankier and more and more funny.
I got the kids' picture taken on July 5th and Michaela suggested that I have them wear their red, white and blue coordinated- not matching- Americana wear, and I agreed. We also brought separate coordinated tops for the girls to change into that we all really liked. When Jenna was changing from her patriotic-themed dress into the pink shirt, she said, "Red, white and blue is sooooo... YESTERDAY!" :)
And those pictures... my goodness. Each kid looked older and more grown up than the next. And Jenna in particular, in her individual shot, looks so long and lean and graceful and pretty, it is like seeing a glimpse of her in a few years. Michaela had a picture taken of her at a birthday party two years ago that did the same thing- gave you a preview of what was coming... somehow in that picture her face looked a little more angular, her smile was a little more confident and I thought, My goodness, this is what is coming soon. And that's exactly what happened.
And then we have Miss Michaela.
My first baby who is clearly not a baby anymore. She is like a horse galloping forward and we are merely trying to keep hold of the reins. She had such huge jumps in development this year academically, emotionally, and socially, and thankfully had a wonderful teacher who saw this all happening and ushered her safely through while holding her feet to the fire of accountability. Michaela has been arranging her own playdates, helping me with Alec, watching more grown up tv shows, and pushing the envelope in every way possible to get more time away from us and later bedtimes ("How about 10:15?" "No." "10:00?" "9:30!" "Okay, 9:45ish."). She remains a wicked fun person to be with and hang around with because she is the type of kid who makes things happen.
Michaela got a new bike for graduation from elementary school, a beautiful blue bike that she loves and takes the sting out of the fact that the bike cannot text or check her Instagram account, like the phone she wanted would have. (You know how kids say "EVERYONE HAS THIS BUT ME!!"? Well, Michaela may actually be the only 5th grade graduate without a texting device. And we are pretty steadfast about this.) (Oh, yes, she has an Instagram account. And uses the slang term Swag quite a bit, which I am guessing is the equivalent of "cool", but I'm not sure. It's the first official slang that I don't get, which is just as much a reflection of me getting older as it is a reflection of her getting older.)
With this non-texting bike she has started exploring our neighborhood by herself, which gives me stomachaches, and can bike over to her grandparents' house alone. Every horrific child abduction scenario that I've ever seen on GMA goes through my head in the 7 minutes while I wait for her to call me saying she got there safely. She wants to be allowed to stay home by herself and we are talking about that with her.
The other day I was grocery shopping and the people ahead of me in line were a mother and daughter about Michaela's age. The mom had to leave for some reason and I watched as the daughter very effectively and efficiently unloaded the items, checked out, and loaded the bags back into the cart. She did it with such an easy naturalness of competence. And I know in my heart that Michaela would be able to do exactly the same. And as I was standing there, I think it really, really hit me for the first time that Michaela is actually going to grow up and strike out into the world as a woman on her own someday, forging her own life. And that life will be without me standing over her shoulder, making her breakfast in the morning, shopping for her clothes, and fixing every hurt.
And I am only now beginning to understand how painful it is for parents to have their children grow up and leave them.
But I am comforted every morning by the fact they all three still want to lay down with me on the couch as they are waking up and easing into the day. I have been consciously trying to be more present with them at these times, kissing their heads and smelling their hair. They are delicious, these babies of mine, no matter how quickly they are growing up.