It was my youngest child’s fourth birthday Monday, and I have to admit I was a bit misty eyed. Four years went by in an instant.
There I was with my two older children having to go to school and a spunky little 4-year-old’s birthday ahead of me. Just the two of us… the feeling was of both excitement and reminiscence.
My, how time flies!
At times, I couldn’t wait for this to be true. I wanted nothing more than for time to fly. It was usually during the days of unhappy toddlers, poop accidents, public puking episodes and shrieking and deafening tantrums in church or in quiet stores. But it was also those days where no matter how hard I seemed to work, the kids just weren’t acting the way I believed they could or should. It was both frustrating and draining and enough to make me wish time away.
But this year, Carson’s birthday was more of an emotional milestone for me. His birthday coincidentally fell the night before day one of what may very well be his last year in preschool. This realization, coupled with Carson’s maturity has led me to (sniff, sniff) recognize that I am a mother to big kids now, and frankly, it’s kind of weird. I am a bit emotional that those cozy, housebound days are behind me. The snuggles are fewer, the quiet blips of a day behind me. I am in a new “thick of it,” and one that depends more on negotiation and conversation than kissing boo-boos, sleep training and wiping noses. And on this particular morning when I considered how much my baby has grown, I missed those days.
So for Carson’s big day, I let him call the shots… but I decided to hog him in the meantime. We could have called friends, invited grand parents, I didn’t even give him the option… I could’ve planned his preschool party for this day. Instead I chose to let Carson pick the spot and I would be the one to soak up all his attention… selfish, yet satisfying and well deserved if you ask me. This was a big day for both of us!
Our morning began with fattening cinnamon buns, Carson’s adorned with a large yellow and white No. four candle, big enough to dwarf the sticky bun it sat atop. We dropped my other children off the two big kids at school and went home to freshen up before hitting the road to celebrate. All he wanted to see was “the animals,” so I had a few offerings.
Happy Hollow was the chosen destination, and a good one. It was virtually empty, allowing us to actually pet the animals being showcased during Pet Meet and Greets and also grab a close seat at the puppet show with just two minutes to spare before the opening scene. We rode lineless rides numerous times and when we had lunch, we were the only ones at any table inside the Picnic Basket area. Carson was even able to climb up the 25-foot swirly slide at Redwood Lookout because there was no fear of any child whizzing down it.
And my, it was easy with just one 4-year-old! I packed a small cooler of lunch and snacks, threw it in a backpack with a few waters, some cash, a camera and sun block and we were set. No stroller, diaper bag, change of clothes… I needed nothing additional, just a little hand in mine and a smile on the mouth of the little boy walking alongside me. There were no interruptions. I had time to laugh with my child, to think about how to respond to his many questions … and a bit of time to watch and listen to the other mothers nearby.
As I looked around, I noticed most moms had a child Carson’s age or thereabouts, but another one either in a stroller or in utero, or both. I have been there and I couldn’t help but watch these moms and remember when…
The fast breaks across the park to grab little Mikey, who was hanging upside down by his ankle. There were the screams from tired kids, the swats from one little 2-year-old to his sister. The moms who routinely used the line, “I am not going to tell you again.” (and then did, again and again, eight times thereafter.) The wet wipes being used for sticky hands, smeared face paint, wandering toddlers, double BOB strollers that clear out by noon because its driver has been up since 5 a.m. and only slept for one hour between the hours of midnight and 5. The “I’m gonna count to three…” phrase where the mom hangs on the one and two for nearly five minutes. I heard the sound of Baby Bjorn snaps, there was the smell of Baby Aveeno sun block and the large internal sighs that represent the end of one mini calamity and the commencement of another…
Memory, it appears, is quite malleable. You become a master of remembering what you want to remember. My morning memories of these long games of Peek-a-boo, the unique scent of baby powder and sounds of endless giggles aren’t really the way it went for me each day either, I assume. While watching these ladies roll with the throws early motherhood, it brought back an enormous admiration and respect for how hard our job is at any age.
So while four years have flown by, at the end of my Happy Hollow experience, I found that even though they went by quickly, I am grateful that the past four years have been so perfect … well in my mind.