Sunday, August 2, 2009

Babying Big Kids

It is Sunday night and I just had a very productive weekend. I didn't get any major house projects done. Aside from some light de-cluttering, I haven't done any real house cleaning. Nothing was dug up or transplanted in my water logged front flower bed. We had no visitors, no long chats with neighbors. In fact half of my family was out of town. But the reason I feel so content has nothing to do with concrete accomplishments. It has everything to do with the fact I got to baby my oldest child.

She arrived on the planet just over seventeen years ago and for the past sixteen years she has basically been in charge of herself. Maybe it has something to do with her being pushed out of the 'family baby' position just weeks after her first birthday. She didn't get to claim the title for long. She has always taken on the role of big sister with gusto. She was five, then ten, when her other two brothers joined the family and she instantly became their second mom. Sam was such a fussy baby that if Meredith had not been willing to juggle and rock him for 20 minutes each day, I wouldn't have showered his whole first year of life.

The drawback to this situation is that I rarely get to fuss over my girl. She loves her independence and loves that I call her my personal assistant. But sometimes I miss just being her mom. I miss being able to gush over her and fuss over her. That's why this weekend agreed so completely with my mothering heart. Because Friday morning, bright and early, my all- grown- up girl had her wisdom teeth removed.

Dad took her in for the appointment and just before noon she stumbled through our kitchen door, still groggy from the anesthetic. She mumbled something in my direction and I don't think I could have deciphered it even if her mouth hadn't been stuffed with gauze. I steered her towards our king sized bed and propped her up with pillows. For the first few hours she was barely awake so I fussed over her quietly, tucking in covers, propping up the frozen corn on her jaw to keep the swelling down.

Then she woke up and was able to ask for things. Another pillow for her lower back. A glass of ice water. Maybe some applesauce for her growling stomach. I was thrilled to have the chance to baby her.

On normal days she never needs me for such minute things. In fact she's the one who gets those things for her little brothers when I'm at work. She's always the pamper-er, rarely the pamper-ee. It was a rare treat to have her all propped up, a captive audience, as I came and went through the room. I don't think I've seen her for such a long period of uninterrupted time since she was in elementary school.

I have friends who are still in the little kid stage of life. They have little people hanging on them, tugging on their pant leg, needing something, almost every minute of the day. They use the lock on the bathroom to get a little time alone. They can hardly imagine having big kids, kids who vanish to their rooms and friend's houses in the blink of an eye. Big kids who know how to make their own lunch, bandage their own boo-boos and complete their potty time all by themselves. It is hard to grasp that those types of days will come, when you're tripping over a basket of tub toys every time you take a shower and would pay a million dollars on some days if you could just find one (just one!) bleepity bleep pacifier.

We had those days. I'm sure we did. I have photo boxes full of pictures documenting those days. They seem far away from me most of the time but I know we were once there ourselves. And so quickly they all grew up. They did what kids are supposed to do in a healthy, nurturing environment. They started doing more things for themselves and started helping out around the house. I rarely load a dishwasher these days. I haven't put away kid laundry in years. I mow the grass only if I feel like getting a little sun and/or exercise. Most of the time you will see these chores being done by the big kids who live in our house. They help out around our house to prepare them for being on their own. On their own in a very short time, once you do the math.

So as much as I hate to see my baby girl in pain, I have enjoyed the past three days. I have had the rare chance to be a mommy again to this child who so rarely needs my physical help. It has been a joy to bring her fresh ice packs, the new People magazine, and endless milkshakes.

Because she may be as tall as I am and she may be just twelve months away from graduating and moving on with her life, but for this brief period of time the clock moved backward.

For a few magical days I got to be mommy again and fuss over my sweet, sweet baby girl.

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