I don’t know what happens that causes us to stop sharing the sweet spots of parenting with others beyond the baby years. Maybe occasionally, we hear songs of praise for the years right before tweenhood; that often-calm time before a storm of new hormones and insecurities.
We are doing one another a disservice. There are so many sweet spots beyond that point- really and truly.
Like when they are allowed to graduate to the front passenger seat.
You know, beside you.
I didn’t think much of it. I only knew he had begged and begged. I knew it was a coveted status amongst the cousins at that time, to be old enough, and I saw the jealousy when each one hit that milestone, leaving the others behind. I knew it would make him feel older, and it would certainly make him look older.
But I had no idea.
I had no idea the talks we’d have; the music he would share with me- good, bad, and funny. I didn’t know all of the small things I’d be about to read on his face right before he jumped out and headed into school, headphones still in; those expressions telling me more about what he anticipated for that day than his words could. I never imagined he’d go from jumping out of the car after practices to sitting in the driveway with me, asking to listen to the end of the song, or seeking advice. We had always been close; behind the walls of our home, I’m in his floor of his room, or he flops himself on my bed and we talk, but this was something else. Suddenly car time was almost sacred. When they’re old enough for that- to be invited beside in a way that they can see and feel, the conversations change. They rise to the perceived occasion. You can see the adult they’re slowly growing into, and you’re having nearly adult conversations. They say and observe things and it feels a lot like the wonder of watching them take their first steps; you sense that a whole new world is about to open up for them. You’re reminded, yet again, that they are pretty amazing.
The other day was not a great one, and to top it off, the main element of dinner had somehow gone bad in the freezer. I had no quick backup plan, so pizza it would be. I hurriedly ordered and started grabbing my things to leave.
“Want me to go with you?”
“If you want.”
He did indeed “want.” He told me about school, about friends, about summer plans. We stopped and took pictures of the old school house on the way.
He carried pizzas, tucked them in the back seat that used to be just his, which now rotates between siblings, or friends and cousins we pile in on Friday nights.
It dawned on me this morning that by the time his sister can grace the passenger seat (something I now know to really look forward to), he likely won’t be there much at all anymore. He’ll be in the driver’s seat of his own car. The same pattern will follow with the younger two, almost exactly at the same pace. I selfishly struggle to see the sweet spot that lies there, but I know it’s just because we haven’t lived it yet. Given our record so far, I trust it will make itself known, take my breath away for a bit, and then move us all along to something new.
I see the passenger seat now for what it is. It’s a teacher, showing me the shift in the ways in which they need me, and will need me in the future. It’s a reminder that one day soon, very soon in our case, we will be switching places.
It’s a gift before they go.