The little but big milestone

Eleven years ago,  when my husband and I choose the house we now live in, we liked the idea of having an elementary school just blocks away from home. We didn’t even have kids back then; we were clueless about many things that were headed our way,  because having kids had been in our plans ever since we were dating.
A year later our son was born; 16 months later our daughter was born.  I never stopped working my full time job; this was accomplished with the help of my husband, full time daycare for four costly years, and of course. .. hard work, good will and lots of patience.
I remember during those day care years,  taking long walks, pushing our enormous double stroller close to the neighboring school. I would look at my babies, making baby noises, grinning big at me while I sweated and panted trying desperately to loose weight and inches around my disappearing waist.
The principal’s voice through the PA announcing what was for lunch that day, then reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, then making final announcements to those stay at home moms that still lingered leisurely on the school grounds chatting in small groups.
I get ridiculously emotional sometimes for random events that deep down move my soul and my most inner self. This was one of them.
The voice of the Principal, calm and cordial, brought tears to my eyes…because it made me think  that before I knew it, I would be walking these two babies that sat in my double stroller, into that school.
Just imagining that picture made me teary eyed, proud and extremely happy.
In the afternoon, I would see dozens of kids walking back home through our front window.  And I wondered, what will our babies look like at that age? Will they walk alone? With friends? Will they do well with homework and all the busy goings on of school? Will I?
Five years later there I was, walking our son to school, who was thrilled not to be wearing a Montessori uniform anymore. There were moms in tears, while their kids (some of which had never left home) were thrilled to be with so many little friends, having their own set of crayons and a desk!
Because of potential anxiety attacks (from kids and moms) all parents were asked to stay that morning. But by day two, the real thing started.
I left the school with a very heavy heart, refusing to cry a river, I let out only a couple of tears, which that seemed to have emerged from my tight and pained throat.
A year later the same happened with my daughter’s first day.
We were fortunate to have the same teacher for both kids. One of the most compassionate,  patient and empathetic teachers I have met so far. The phrase “She was born to be a teacher” fits her to perfection.

One of the next milestones was when they each reached the minimum weight required to ride next to me as opposed to on the back seat.
No more looking through the rear view mirror to check if the tiny thing is breathing,  or choking, or to see the tiny faces as they chat away non stop with their endless questions about life. No more nursery rhymes to tolerate just to hear them sing a little.
The side by side conversations started taking place in the car. The more serious questions about how to drive, when to signal, when to stop. What is that man there doing pushing a shopping cart with clothes? Why is that building yellow? What is that crane carrying?
And then more challenging like…why are you taking this way home? Why are you looking at your phone?   Or the more mature ones like,  how was your day Mom? or That is where my friend lives!
Moving to the front seat is, I guess in a way like, opening a huge window before their eyes. A new piece of the huge puzzle that is life.
Yesterday, for the first time, we gave our daughter the key to the house, so that both kids could walk home after school. Something I said I would NEVER do. Being the paranoid person I can be, I have always feared suspicious black vans snatching kids from the sidewalk, or the house catching fire while the kids are home alone.
Last year proved to be a difficult one with the children maturing into more challenging little persons, that are more confident on what they want, what they believe in and what matters to them.
Their overall behavior -while showing more responsibility-  has been also been harder to deal with…because of one simple reason: they think they’ve got it all figured out. This pre-teen attitude, while it annoys me greatly, has also revealed that they can perfectly manage on their own for a couple of hours. During this past year, we have taken the time to teach them how to make their own school lunches, how to do their laundry and put their clothes away,  how to load and start the dishwasher, how to feed and bathe our pet lizard,  how to make popcorn and toast; taught them which afternoon snacks are OK and which ones totally require an ‘OK’ from their Dad or me and last,  how to lock and unlock the front door with a key.
Typing this feels easy but it was all accomplished after many months of whining,  spilling detergent, washing with no soap at all, burning several bags of popcorn and many slices of bread, wearing very wrinkly clothes because they weren’t retrieved from the dryer while they were still warm, but the day after instead.
Now I can proudly say we are sowing those seeds.
For several years the kids have complained about going to After School Care. As a working mom, I carry the guilt of having to leave them at school for several hours until their Dad picks them up.
Just recently I discussed with my husband the possibility of letting the kids walk home, do their homework and chores,  and cancelling daycare all together.
We both realized that the kids would be absolutely fine. While happy inside, I felt the milestone heavy on my shoulders.  One more step…letting go one more inch off the “Independence Rope”.
So yesterday was that day.
My daughter called minutes after getting home just to say they were home and to ask…Can I have a fruit roll up and a juice? ‘cuz I am pretty hungry.
Thirty minutes later she called and said I am still hungry, can I have more snacks?
As I was driving back home, I thought of how unaccustomed she is to being home alone yet so “trained” to ask before eating anything,  it will take her a while to relax and have a bite without calling me first. It was adorable.
My son on the other hand, found no need to call me.  By the time I got home he had raided the bagels,  Gatorade stock and who know what else. He has the appetite of a teenager already.
I fear our College fund contributions should be temporarily shifted to a new Growth Spurt Pantry Fund.
Another totally unexpected milestone fell in the cracks of these past days too: during an off road day trip last weekend, my husband decided to let our son behind the wheel of his very big pick up truck. I didn’t believe either of them until I saw it on video. My jaw dropped as I saw him driving alone, slowly turning the wheel as directed; I looked at my husband with questioning eyes and he just said …it was all sand..nothing to crash against…all open space.

When I asked my little man if he got nervous he just replied No Mom! I was happy.
In my mind I screamed…he is only 10!!!!
It is these little but big steps that I want to remember, the steps that make the stairway to adulthood. I hope I am there to see them and enjoy them all.

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