idol prize fight | week 17 #4 | 1362 words
My Happy Place
If you had a time machine, who would you want to meet?
There are a number of historical figures I would like to see in person, but someone famous would not be my first choice. I would use the time machine to visit earlier versions of my children, instead!
I don't idolize my own childhood, but I have tons of fond memories of spending time with our kids. From their beginnings as fluffy little babies (I still remember how it felt to hold them) to their toddler years, and then their pre-school and elementary years and beyond. It was a wonderful ride that was over too soon.
The peacefulness of holding a sleeping baby… a three-month old kicking her feet with excitement at learning to blow raspberries… a five-month old bouncing with glee over a red balloon… an 8-month-old clapping and laughing while you blow bubbles… Magic.
Your kids' happy moments are one of the greatest joys of parenting. Even the simplest things are new to them, and looking at the world through their eyes you remember how wonderful it is to ride on swings, to eat Popsicles, to splash in a wading pool!
But it isn't just the sweetness that's wonderful, though I ache with missing it. The weirdness is one of the best parts of the parenting experience—things you will never see coming and would never even expect.
Driving around town in November with a two-year-old who suddenly asks, "Why we don't have witches in the sky?"
Or our son stymying the Santa at a friends' birthday party when he was two:
Santa: What would you like for Christmas?
Son: I want to whistle!
Santa: That's… an unusual request. Anything else?
Son: I want my birthday party in the backyard!
Santa: Uh… You'd better talk to your mom about that...
Son: *pats Santa's white-gloved hands* I like your glubs.
He never actually asked for a toy, which random-Santa wasn't expecting. But the memory was priceless. Seventeen years later, I still laugh about it!
On a doctor's visit with his dad at age three, he kept peeking around the door at the nurses in their blue scrubs because he thought they were Blue Fairies and might make him a Real Live Boy. We still have no idea why he didn't think he already was one. :O
On another day when he was three, after I mentioned that food gives us energy and makes us strong, he responded with, "When snails eat their food, they die."
You don't have to wait for the awkwardness of a "Birds and the Bees" talk. A question like that gives you the same kind of whiplash—How did I wind up in the middle of THIS conversation?
At age four, both kids would come up with such random, outrageous ideas. Sometimes, they had heard them from a Bigger Kid (and trust me, a kid just a year older seems like the source of all wisdom when you're little). But often, these were just things they'd invented in their heads. I used to call them True Facts From Nowhere, because the kids were convinced they were real:
Daughter: Donkeys don't live on farms.
Me: Yeah, they do.
Daughter: *frowns* Well, maybe some donkeys do… They live in the jungle!
Right, the lesser South American Jungle Burro! Who knew?
This is also partly due to kids' difficulty in separating fantasy from reality. But that is also one of the most enjoyable parts of parenting, and leads to conversations like this one, when our daughter was five:
Daughter: Why we're not seeing any blimps for a really long time?
Me: Oh. You don't often see them.
Daughter: Are they shy?
Or our son, when he was almost five, wanting to create a zoo at his pre-school with one of his friends. They decided it would be easier to just take the animals from the Sacramento Zoo. They worked up a plan where the five-year-old friend would drive over to our house (!), pick up our son, and then go to the zoo, where the two of them would collect the animals using a broom and a net.
Those were some pretty specific tools!
Not all the moments are wonderful, though they can be entertaining to look back on. Our son had almost no filter from his brain to his mouth, so while you knew when he was happy or grateful, you also knew when he was in a snit. He would voice his negative thoughts again and again, like he was on a mission to burn the whole world down right along with him.
But that led to outbursts like, "No, I NOT having fun at the zoo today!" because he was in a mood about even going. You'd find yourself saying, "Will you listen to yourself?", because really—how crazy does that sound? So funny.
We were at Marineworld one day when he was five, waiting in line to ride one of the kids' rollercoasters. When we finally moved around the corner to the final stretch of waiting, he started running ahead, calling out, "It's my turn!"
I pulled him back and told him we had to wait for the other people in front of us. That prompted him to jab the man ahead of us in the butt and say, "NO turn for you!" It was both mortifying and hilarious, and thank goodness the man either didn't feel it or chose to ignore it.
Both kids were pretty easy to raise, so things like that didn't happen often, but it was sure good for a laugh in the long run!
It isn't just the family trips and other highlights that are worth revisiting. The time I spent giving the kids baths, reading to them, playing LEGOs or Barbies or Dinosaur Monopoly with them, or taking them to the park… I would love to do all of those more ordinary things with them again. I could build gigantic train set layouts on the living room floor with our son (a regular activity from age two to eight). I might stumble over one of our daughter's sweet little notes to me, or take her to the park and push her on the swings.
Or have this conversation again, while putting sunblock on her for the day at age seven:
Me: I notice that you're still saying FRIniture, but it's FURniture—like animal fur.
Daughter: That's silly! Christopher, what do you say?
Me: Christopher calls it FUN-iture, so there's no point in asking him!
Hey, why trust the input of the adult in the room when you can ask the five-year-old instead?
I would do it all—those trips to the park, the zoo, the three-story Burger King play land, Marine World, Pixie Woods, and FairyTale town. Vacation stops at the beach, the Enchanted Forest, Disneyland, and the indoor swim center near Eugene.
I would spend a rainy day reading books to the kids, or join them for making shadow puppets in the laundry room after naptime. I would drop in for nighttime routines of eating dinner, giving baths, and reading bedtime stories.
I would even help my daughter sell Girl Scout Cookies in our neighborhood during the winter.
It is March now. Billboards and television ads remind me that tax day is coming, and I can feel my happy thoughts and inner peace running for the exit.
Our children are both in college now. Driving our oldest off to a school 500 miles away was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Without a time machine, I rely on pictures and memories of those earlier times. I would start it all again from the beginning and relive it day-by-day, if only I could.
Children are such different people at each stage of their lives. Even while their personalities develop along the continuum of who they will become, they are distinct individuals at birth, at two months, at six months, at age one, two, three, and onward.
My children were wonderful, curious, loving, and hilarious little people, unlike each other or even other versions of themselves. They were unique and special. They still very much are.
But the people they were at all those various points in the past? God, how deeply I miss them.
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