I Do Not Have Small Children
by Nicole Freire
I talked about the sippy cup situation already, so you would think that by now I would have caught on to the fact that I do not have small children anymore.
I continue to be surprised by it.
This is a picture of Eileen, of The Tortoise and The Hair. On Saturday she cut my girls' hair for the last time, as she is happily headed towards retirement. We were chatting as she combed out the tangles in their hair, and Eileen said that not only would this be their last haircut, this was her last one ever. We were the last appointment she took.
And I said something about how long we'd been seeing her and she said yes, I first saw you in 1997.
What? 1997? That wasn't possible. My eldest daughter was born in 1997. So, that was, uh, uh, yeah, I guess it's been that long.
I do not have small children. I do not have to change diapers or wipe noses and I do not spend my mornings watching Sesame Street with a toddler on the couch and an infant on my chest. There are no baby thermometers in my medicine cabinet and there is no need for Tylenol that tastes like bubblegum.
Instead, I have a little girl who on Friday had her first sleepover away from home, away from me. And on Sunday, my other little girl went to the fair with some of her friends and some of those friends were boys.
(Chaperoned heavily I might add, but that does not change the fact that boys were there and even though professed to be "gross" and "weird" were still invited, invited specifically.)
I am behind. When I had a question before, I would grab my bible, "Caring For Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5" by the American Academy of Pediatrics, head for the index and look up the answer.
(This practice, I'm sure, is influenced by growing up with a reference librarian for a parent. Because any question you have? You can look up the answer in a book.)
But I do not have children from birth to age 5. They are older, much older and I am only now realizing that I have been utterly winging it for the last few years. I am textless. I have no book for these years and I'm starting to panic just a little.
Those early years were so foggy and so hard that I convinced myself that it would always be that way, days and days of eating nothing but goldfish crackers and watered down apple juice, hours coercing toddlers to get into the bath and to get out of the bath, no really, it's time to get out of the bath NOW.
Now they have conversations with me, long conversations that don't include what's happening with Blue's Clues, but instead why Mommy uses so much bad language. And what happened at tennis and homework and can we go shopping because my shoes are too small again.
I try to ask other people about what they've tried and I rack my brain constantly, trying to scare up some memories about what I was like at the ages my girls are now, but truly most days I am faking it, and faking it hard. I make stuff up. I equivocate, I bargain, I bribe, I dance as fast as I can before it's too obvious that while Mommy is trying, trying very hard, Mommy is flailing, Mommy has no clue, Mommy is guessing!
Shh, don't tell them that. They're going to figure it out when they're teenagers, right?
And I'm asking for some recommendations. Do you have a good book? About children over the age of 5? Over the age of 7? Seriously, leave me some suggestions in the comments section.
Also, on the clothing front, today I wore a lovely white linen shirt. And I felt pretty good about it until I realized that it had four pockets on the front and epaulets on the shoulder. What the hell? EPAULETS.
Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.