My little Bear and I have a favorite game, in which we drive down one of the most beautiful tree-lined streets in our small town, past the house he plans on buying someday. When he is a Grownup Man. Every time, he points out a second-floor window, and assures me that there is a room in the house just for me, when I become an older and smaller (?!) mommy, and he will stock it with yogurt smoothies and chocolate, and he will take care of me.
It’s hard to imagine that such a day will ever come, as I watch him in the aisle at Staples, picking out pencils, crayons, and shiny new folders as he prepares to start kindergarten. It’s hard to imagine that such a day will ever come, as he and his older sister describe what they entitled “secret summer camp,” for all of the children in our neighborhood who want to sneak out in the middle of the night through invisible passages under their dressers, and ride go-karts together. It’s hard to imagine that such a day will ever come, as he carefully takes my hand to cross the street for a playdate, or bellows his (for him, anyway) wholly original lyric “I got this booty in my pocket/Got this poopie in my feet.”
And yet I know it will, because I have watched how quickly his older sister, my Birdie, has grown, and I never could believe that such a day would come, when she would be looking at sports bras, huffily explaining to me that she is no longer a little girl but A Tween, or outlining a scheme for obtaining both an iPhone 6 and a 10pm bedtime, under the rationale “all of my friends have both of them” (they don’t). Yet she still will take my hand as we cross a busy city street, or describe to me her plan to put a hammock where her sandbox used to be…a hammock we can share.
For years my husband and I have discussed the splendidly fortuitous coincidence that my potential active-duty retirement date will coincide with Birdie’s entrance into high school. Although I will of course keep working, somewhere, it comforts us both that we will no longer have to worry about extended military trips that might conflict with the craziness of an adolescent world. But will it be too late? Will being gone three times a year while she is in middle school make it harder for her to take me seriously when she’s stuck with me full-time? Or will she be glad to finally have me around all of the time? Will my presence now as Meanest Mom Ever set her up for continued future conflicts as I refuse iPhone 13gazillionS, dates as a sophomore, or free-wheeling access to car keys?
It’s too much to worry about.
It’s easier for now to worry about her reading under the covers past that imaginary 10pm bedtime. Easier to worry about getting her the right backpack to start fourth grade with, one that has room for her BB8 bento-style lunchbox (who knew?).
Easier to hope we won’t fall out of the hammock when we lay in it together, just Mom and Birdie, listening to a dog barking in the distance.
And easier to worry about whether or not my Bear has figured out what my favorite yogurt smoothie flavor will be someday, as he lays his head on my shoulder and whispers his hopes that he will love kindergarten as much as he loves me.
Erica Russo has served in the military for 16 years. She is also a proud military spouse, mother of two, third-term PTA president, wishful gardener, and terrible housekeeper. Erica spent most of ninth-grade biology guessing song titles with 4BoysMother and hopes her children will be more conscientious students.