But they just got here
We were cleaning house today. I got ambitious and decided to finish changing the cabinet handles in our kitchen and den, with Jack's help.
"You'll need to remove these," I told my son, pointing to the odd remaining plastic child-proof latches.
"What are these?" asked Jack.
"Safety latches. They kept you out of trouble when you were little."
We are still living in our first house, the house we brought both our babies home to. My children have never known bedrooms other than the ones they occupy now. I also realized today that we still keep all the measuring cups in a bottom kitchen drawer, a trick my mom taught me so that a baby could entertain itself while I cooked. Our ceramic cookie jar is in the form of Mister Frumble, the pig from the Richard Scarry books. (Yes, you know!— the one who wore a green hat and drove the pickle car.)
Last month we painted over the fluffy storybook clouds in Jack's room to reinvent the room with a mossy green coat of paint. I had created this mural when I was seven months pregnant and I still consider it one of my proudest artistic endeavors. I've known for a long time that the day would come when Jack would outgrow it, but I managed to talk him into leaving the skyscape on the ceiling for old time's sake. (He bought into my idea that his new teenaged room would feel like a "topless tiki hut.")
After a sneeze-inducing excavation of Jack's closet, we loaded the van with donated boxes and bags of old clothes headed for Goodwill. The Herculean feat was sorting through Jack's incredible toy collection. (From the number of complete Happy Meal sets, I think I now know where I picked up that extra thirty pounds over the past decade.) It was fun revisiting our old friends Arthur, the Berenstain Bears, Lowly Worm, Spiderman, Inspector Gadget, and Captain Underpants — in most cases deciding their sentimental value far exceeded whatever they might fetch on Ebay or the used bookstore. Side by side, Jack and I sorted, culled and stored, reuniting countless Lego sets and squeezing selected Beanie Babies into Ziplock bags. I pulled an Eric Carle print from its hiding place behind the shoe bag, taking momentary delight before having to drop it into the trash. We dumped the best of the Hot Wheels cars into plastic boxes and dressed up the bed with a preppy plaid comforter from the Back-To-College section of Target.
I didn't have the heart to find a new home for Jack's tiny Batman costume, the one he wore nearly daily when he was four; it's still folded and sitting in my room. I walk by it every day and wonder what it will be like the next time Jack's room gets a major makeover. Where will he be living? When we moved here, Jack wasn't even a idea. Now he's shaving. How can this be?
In exactly two years, Kate will leave for college. What am I going to do the 70-plus My Little Ponys that live in the plastic trunk in her closet? (Right now I'm imagining a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane scene: Me sitting in the middle of the pastel herd, combing their pink plastic manes with a tiny brush, swigging wine straight from the bottle, mascara streaming down my face.)
I love my teenagers, and this time in their lives. They're smart, funny, capable and full of possiblities — but still a work in progress. I really don't miss those sweet fuzzy headed baby and toddler days, although I enjoyed that time to the fullest. I loved every minute — the six continuous years of diapers, the spit up, the sleep deprivation, the endless ear infections. (Ironically, now we have three dearly loved dogs to take care of the pooping, peeing and throwing up.)
Parenting is like a roller coaster. You wait a long time to get on and there's no getting off once you're on the ride. Safety is a huge concern, there are enormous highs and lows and twists, and once the ride rolls to a stop all you can say is, "That's it? But it was so short!"