I could alternatively title this post "How I Know They Are Growing Up". Here's why:
1: This week was Bible Camp for the boys. It was Ace's first time in attendance and just like Bear when he began, it took him some time to adjust. Just a day or so, enough to remind me that the child is 3 and though he has a boatload of confidence and an older brother to boot, there will still be times when he needs a little coddling, an extra hug from Mama, or a summery afternoon nap. Once I cracked the code for this week, he was as pleased as punch to trot off to camp. He spent his hours there among such a supportive staff- I am continually moved by what they provide to the youth in my town each summer. I think they know how I feel since I am a blubbery, emotional mess by the time camp ends, but it is all just so poignant!!!!!!
2: All in the same afternoon the boys caught a bug (what in the
world is it?! (*edited to add: my friend, K, tells me that it will soon be a furcula borealis moth), worked on an art project and ate lunch brook side without getting their clothes soaked or accidentally dropping their food into the water! I don't even know if i can handle all that independence from them. Also I'm not entirely convinced they will never again lose their lunch to a flowing stream.
3: Our summer family traditions now firmly include Great Escape; learning one's way around an amusement park is an important childhood skill I say! This was a big year for Ace and Bear. Ace is tall enough (and sure enough of himself) to go on all the "kiddy" rides. He showed no discretion among the airplanes, swings, carousel, train, cars- all brought pure joy. Bear was eager to go on all those rides too, but this year he discovered a whole new world available to him. A world full of heights and speed and plummets...
See that tower in the distance? That's Sasquatch. Bear rode it.
Bear rode both the "lift" and "drop" versions: rising 19 stories, 192ft into the sky with me and experiencing weightlessness for the first time in his 7 year old life. He devoured it whole. We moved on to Steamin' Demon...
It's a loop and corkscrew roller coaster- yay! Champ did a grade A job of videotaping Bear's first ride, so we only have a photo of us leaving the station. But here's a picture I took of it a few years ago...
You get the idea.
Watching their childhood pass so swiftly is hard. I can easily sink back into the memories of cloth diapers and nursing and board books read from the rocking chair. My remembrances are gauzy and nostalgic- there are always lit fireplaces and cozy dogs nearby. My favorite music is gently playing and dinner was prepared hours ago, hot and ready to be eaten at a moment's notice.
My remembrances are entirely faulty. They are as synthetically created as the memory in my head of my baby boys always smelling like Heaven and nothing more. It's only when my present day life encourages me to build new memories of my children- memories like that of Bear gleefully screaming his lungs out in the coaster seat next to me- that my fist of a heart loosens a little to let all that goodness seep in and a little of that cloyingly persistent part of the past seep out.
It's too early to tell if eventually all my memories of my boys balance out and I have consistently accurate and good ones. I don't even know if I want that to happen. What I am happy to report from the trenches though, is that it is a little less painful to watch your children grow up when as parents we recognize that we need to grow right along with them. "Change is the only constant" and all that jazz. If Bear is ready to move on, well then it's my job to introduce him the the next coaster in sight.
It occurred to me as we were skipping up to Sasquatch that the moment will come when I might no longer be able to handle such rides. When even if Bear perennially asks me to join him, the day comes that I must turn him down as I sink into a park bench. So I studied those benches before the ride launched and I saw those parents. The moms or dads gingerly sitting there and squinting into the sun with a most amazing look on each of their faces, full of love and wistfulness and satisfaction. I saw their children, practically adults, sitting in the seats surrounding me.
That afternoon at Great Escape I knew they were not remembering the time consuming process of helping their child up into the ride's seat and buckling him in, nor the jarring effects of the loopy roller coaster which no Excedrin entirely erases. They were remembering holding their child's hand and gently leading on to the next ride, the next challenge. A perfectly painted summer sky, the smell of funnel cake sweet on their child's lips. No bickering siblings, no sore feet. The lure of fresh soft serve once the park closes and the gentle sighs of a 7 year old as you proudly carry him out of the park he has conquered.
Hmmmmmm, what's that? Oh you bet I'm gonna carry that version in my heart for as long as I can. For the time being, it's as realistic as they come.