Our neighbor’s little boy gets off the bus at our house four days a week. He’s four, in PreK and 100% boy. He’s curious and rambunctious and full of energy, which is a lovely burst of fun at the end of our (sometimes dry) teenage school days.
The other day he and I were lounging on the sofa, watching SpongeBob. It was raining outside and he didn’t want to color or play with Legos -- which are pretty much the only “little kid” things we have in this house since all my babies aren't babies any more. We had no choice but to watch TV and it was either SpongeBob or Dr. Oz. I’m so glad SpongeBob won. When our favorite sea-living fry cook took a commercial break we were inundated with loud, colorful advertisements for amazingly, wonderful, super cool toys that no child can live without. The one that caught both of our eyes was for the new Nerf line for girls. In keeping up with the proverbial Joneses by way of The Hunger Games and Disney’s Brave, Nerf has launched a line of archery products for girls. “Rebelle”, they call it. I wanted to throw up a little in my mouth at the name, but really, this isn’t about how ridiculous I think that sounds, so I’ll digress.
It caught Skylar’s eye as well, but for a wholly different reason. He didn't care that it was girls with shiny side braids and a gleam of self-reliant determination in their eye who were shooting those squishy, pastel bow and arrows. He just wanted one. Who cares if it’s pink or purple or polka-dotted? It’s a bow and arrow and therefore wicked cool. And all little dudes want to shoot things.
He immediately sat up and said, “I WANT THAT!”
I just smiled and said, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool, buddy.”
Then his eyes went downcast and he said, “But…I have to be bigger to shoot a bow and arrow. Did you know those things could hurt me?”
Ooh, well played, parents. Well played, indeed.
I replied, “Well, yes, you have to be really careful and responsible to shoot a bow and arrow.”
He then interrupted with, “Yeah. I can't shoot a shotgun either. Or get a knife. BUT! When I get bigger – when I grow up! – I can shoot a bow and arrow! I can’t wait to grow up!”
He tapped my arm urgently. “Hey, when do you think I’m going to grow up?”
He is a whole four years old with very few cares in this world. He goes to preschool every day where he gets to sing songs about new shoes and fuzzy caterpillars and the days of the week. He gets a nap and a snack in the afternoon. He has someone to help him tie his shoes. He has someone to hold and comfort him when he’s upset or scared or frustrated. There is someone there to remind him if he forgets his manners or his backpack. He gets every meal prepared for him and handed to him. He has a few chores, but his momma is right behind him to help. If someone is mean to him, there is (hopefully) someone there to protect him and make things right.
He cannot wait to grow up! To me, a certified "grown-up", his life sounds like a righteously cool deal I wouldn't dream of wishing away.
How often do we anticipate the future like that? We spend all our time focusing on what is up ahead, how we get to do Thing X if we complete Action Y first. We say, "Oooh, I can't wait until I can do that!" when really, we have pretty cool things in the here and now if we just take time to enjoy them.
Now, don't misunderstand. It's important to have goals and look ahead to the future. I'm not saying we should all give away our property, stop wearing deodorant and shoes and live in a commune where we grow ridiculous vegetables like radishes and drink kombucha (Uhm, yeah, look that one up. It'll give you nightmares) and just live in the now, man. Love, peace and chicken grease. And all that.
Trust me. I'm looking forward to our next trip to Disney World. I mean, like, I seriously jones for it like an addict. There are times I am almost in pain I want to go so badly. (okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration...) Disney World is FLIPPIN' FUN, dudes! When they say it's the "happiest place on earth" they are totally not lying! I dream about that place. I cannot wait to see my kids' faces when they depart a ride that has left them breathless and exhilarated. I cannot wait to see my daughter and her boyfriend ride the Tower of Terror and try to be all cool and reserved and not terrified all at the same time. I cannot wait to watch my youngest who is teetering on the cusp of teenage-hood see a Princess and instantly look like a little girl once again. Or see my son ride Test Track with his daddy and future brother-in-law and just absorb the energy the three of them will expend on such a testosterone-filled speed ride.
But at the same time.....there are magical things going on right here and right now if I just look.
My son's hands are the size of a man's hands now. I didn't realize that until we held hands to pray the other day and was shocked at how his hand enveloped mine. And I swear to you, there are days he is taller in the morning than when he went to bed. I love seeing how he reacts to current events and how he prepares for the ZomPoc. His ideas, while sometimes far out and weird, are his and he's developed them all on his own. He worries about war. He formulates plans on how to keep all of us safe, as if he has seriously considered the thought of the fate of the free world will someday rest on his teen-aged shoulders. He is becoming a very focused and responsible young man right before our very eyes.
Just last night, we watched the DVR'd first episode of Sleepy Hollow. It was creepy and startling and a little disturbing. When it came time for bed last night, Bugg was scared. She said that no matter how many happy thoughts she thought of, the creepy demon with horns in the mirror kept popping into her head. She quickly partook of the invitation to lay in Momma and Daddy's bed for awhile. I scooped her up close to me and held her tight. She intertwined her fingers in mine and squeezed. I prayed over her, asking God to give her peace and remove the evil images in her mind and to remind her that He was her Protector. (I also asked for forgiveness for not using better judgment and letting her watch such a scary show. Parenting fail. She watches The Walking Dead for crying out loud. I figured she could handle a headless horseman. Poor kid.)
Our oldest daughter has a ring. It's a promise/engagement/commitment ring. It started as a promise ring, but considering how soon they want to get married, it will probably just morph silently into an engagement ring. I am fully on board with their commitment and relationship. Her daddy is resisting with all his might. He is a good boy. He is good to her and adores her. He has seen her just hours after surgery and patiently sat with her while she was hydrocodoned out of her mind, she has taken care of him when he's sick, bringing him Gatorade and medicine. They discuss the future with a maturity most 16 and 17 year olds cannot fathom. They are growing up fast. I have a very small amount of time left to teach her things she needs to know. How to budget, how to fold fitted sheets, how to iron, how to get three meals out of one chicken, how to make the best green beans, how to make Memaw's cornbread.....and the list goes on. But if I lose focus of the here and now and look forward to a wedding that's a year away, I will miss the magic in those moments where she lets down her grown-up guard and just wants to have her Momma hold her just like she did when she was three. Of course, she's about six inches taller than me now and kind of folds herself onto my lap like a giraffe in a shoebox, but still.....it's magic when she does it.
"When I grow up" is a phrase that has been uttered by countless children probably since time began. Personally, I think being grown up is way overrated.
I want to focus on the wonderfulness around me right now. Of course, I'll look to the future as I need to, but I want to make sure that I - and my kids - don't miss a single beautifully orchestrated moment in the here and now.