Archive for Monday, May 23, 2011

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River City Jules: Toddlerhood gone for good

May 23, 2011

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It was a hot summer evening in 2003. Why I decided to take my four kids to the pool by myself I have no idea, but it was time to head home.

Ellie, nearly 6, did not want to leave. Amelia, 4, did not want to follow the stroller full of baby Caroline and gear. And Luke, almost 2, wriggled in my arms.

As I paraded my circus to the exit, I noticed a couple relaxing in lounge chairs, feet up, drinks in hand, reading their magazines while their two school-aged children frolicked safely and happily in the water.

Feeling like the old woman in the shoe, I looked at Jodee and her husband, Kevin, with uncontrollable envy, forced a smile upon my haggard face and said, “You make the pool look like so much fun.”

Jodee looked up from her Glamour and smiled. “Yes, it is finally fun,” she confirmed. “You’ll get there, too, though, I promise.”

After hearing hundreds upon hundreds of elderly women tell me to “enjoy this time because it would not last forever” as I wrangled and wrestled my blossoming crew with little grace and much exhaustion, it was refreshing to hear a mom acknowledge there actually is storm before some calm and that the storm would eventually pass.

I filed this promise away in my brain for many years while wiping the last bottom, potty-training the last toddler and tossing the last pacifier. I never thought about it while tying the last shoes, filling the last sippy cup and buckling the last five-point harness. And it never crossed my mind when I pulled off the last set of training wheels, cut the last hotdog into choke-proof bites or marched my last baby off to kindergarten.

Every moment of every day was consumed with turning these precious little beings with few useful skills into moderately independent and functional humans, kissing and hugging their sweet and often messy little faces along the way. Consumed with the never-ending task at hand, I really did not have time to think about Jodee’s words again.

Then one hot summer evening in 2009, my husband and I were relaxing by the pool on a family vacation while our kids frolicked safely and happily in the water when I noticed a woman loading her kids into strollers and arms and hands, and I suddenly remembered Jodee and Kevin kicking back six years earlier.

The moment she had promised would come 2,190 days before had finally arrived.

Tears welled as I grasped this milestone we had unconsciously reached. Our family now complete, my work in the trenches of baby and toddlerhood was permanently over; diapers, naptime, The Wiggles, all were behind me now.

And though the turmoil of the teen years with a whole new load of worries loomed ahead and the job of parenting would never ever end, I refused to think about that For, as hundreds upon hundreds of elderly women had told me time and again, I need to enjoy this time. Because it will not last forever.

Dedicated to children and parents reaching new milestones as school ends … enjoy!

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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