Meredith C. Carroll: The sweet spot(s) of parenting
On Saturday, my 7- and 10-year-old daughters, freshly reunited after two weeks on opposite sides of the country, voluntarily slumbered together in a twin bed while wrapped in the other’s arms. In the middle of the night the little one, deeply asleep, said, “I missed you so much,” to which the big one, also comatose, replied, “I love you.”
If it had been a Hollywood film, the closing credits would have started rolling, the camera panning out the open bedroom window to crickets crescendoing under the lazy watch of the waning moon on a sticky summer night. The girls — and audience — are left to bask in the implication that all such future episodes will be similarly honeyed, that no matter what comes to pass these two will always know from a deeply happy place the dulcet contentment specific to family.
Except this is real life so one of them woke up the next day and pushed the other off the bed.
“I have no room!” she said. “MOVE.”
Yet another Sibling Smackdown fazed neither my husband, Rick, nor me, though. Instead we cooed electronically over photos of the previous night’s Cuddlepalooza. Simple, tender moments are happily becoming nearly unremarkable due to the uptick in their frequency. I register the occurrences so we can always be reminded that sometimes even just a few grains of sweetness are worth savoring — especially since it wasn’t so long ago that occasions such as these seemed like pleasures earmarked for other people. The girls’ morning melee didn’t diminish their late-night nuzzle; rather, both happenings were added to the milestone list that has been kept since the girls were in utero.
Back when they were wee, feats like first sounds and movements were recorded with military-like precision. Nowadays it’s debatable who can lay claim to many of the achievements that get scribbled down for posterity. For instance, the first time both girls successfully put on their own ski boots and gloves without requiring a bucket to mop up the tears (theirs and ours) was worthy of a champagne toast (or liter of vodka, whichever).
This winter my older daughter and I celebrated her inaugural solo RFTA bus ride, which saved me the headache of 45 minutes in rush-hour traffic for a 3-mile round-trip odyssey, and spared her having to listen to me mewl about it. That occasion a few years ago when my younger daughter ultimately realized that me awake during daylight hours is infinitely preferable to me awake before sunrise? Priceless.
When at last the girls stopped needing Rick and me for butt-wiping and showering were happy times, although I guarantee my smile was even bigger when I once got to eat an entire cupcake without anyone sticking their finger in the frosting or demanding the bite that just went into my mouth, despite it having just gone into my mouth.
I wrote down the original date when they were first pushed in swings as babies at the park. The other playground entry on the list that competes with the fondness of that memory, though, is the one where I got to stop being the pusher — because finally learning to pump their legs meant they could stop screaming “More!” “Higher!” or “Faster!” at me.
I chronicled when the girls successfully hacked Rick’s iPad (I’d have logged all the subsequent instances, too, but it would be irresponsible to the forests). Sure, the solid-food introduction is a noteworthy milestone — for them. But the first time I eschewed eating the solids that fell from the high chair onto the floor also was monumental — for me. (Show me a parent who never ate macaroni and cheese from the folds of their baby’s thighs and I’ll show you a liar.)
There were a few summers where every single splash, nap-on-a-blanket-under-a-shady-tree and ice cream cone was commemorated on the list. Then there’s this summer, which shall henceforth be known as the one where Mommy got to pee whenever she wanted without explanation or a buddy, otherwise known as the time when both girls went to sleep-away camp. (Cue the harps.)
The common denominator among the parenting sweet spots seems to indicate in some small way that our kids are internalizing the independence, kindness or sense of humor that we always aim to demonstrate but more often than not fall short of — and yet they’re figuring it out anyway. The moments may not all be wrapped up in fancy bows, but they’re gifts worth treasuring nonetheless.
Follow Meredith Carroll on Twitter @MCCarroll. More at MeredithCarroll.com.
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Dear Jeff and Lori —