Family Magazine

Like a Weed

By Sherwoods
This past week Sophia came downstairs in a fall dress.  I'm trying to keep from spending our last week in the usual packing purgatory by pre-packing things for our three-month medevac this fall.  We're leaving Tashkent in September when the weather hasn't even started thinking about cooling down, so fall clothes are something that definitely won't be used in the next six weeks and can be stuffed into suitcases early.
Packing fall clothes means you have to first sort fall clothes.  I sorted out the boys' clothes myself because I don't trust them to differentiate between worn out clothes or too small clothes and correctly-sized non-ratty clothes.  The girls, however, are more picky about what they wear, so I've assigned them to sort and pack their own clothes.  It is really nice to have some children that are useful.
Sophia was going through her fall clothes and sorting out the things she has grown out of.  The first dress, which last winter was knee length, only reached midway down her thigh.  "Too small," I declared, and she went upstairs to try on the next.  Dress after dress came downstairs, and all of them were approaching tunic length, no longer fit to be called dresses.
I remember being taken by surprise by Kathleen's eleven year-old growth spurt.  She grew nine inches in about six months and turned into a young woman before my eyes after spending her whole life as a little girl.  Kathleen is now an inch shorter than me, with hands and feet the same size.  I'm used to seeing her as a young woman, someone who will be leaving me to go off on her own in the somewhat forseeable future.  She has picked out a major, we've talked about college funding, and will be in high school in a year.  But as she is the first child, this is to be expected.
What is a little surprising, however, is that Sophia is following in the footsteps of her older sister.  It turns out that she too won't stay a little girl much longer either.  In the surprised fascination of discovering that my oldest was growing up, I forgot that this meant that the others would do the same thing, and some of them would be following soon.
I was once talking with an older friend who had had children close like we have.  "The thing you don't count on," she remarked to me, "is that they leave you just as closely as they come to you.  You blink your eyes and before you know it they're all gone."
We have a few years yet before they start leaving us, but I didn't realized that they would all grow up in a hurry too.  Once the first one starts shooting up, the dominoes have started to fall and it will be a continual run of too-short jeans, too-tight shoes, and insatiable appetites for the next fifteen years.  I knew intellectually that eventually my children would grow up, but it's a different experience to literally watch it happen before your eyes.
A family picture from last summer sits on our bookshelf.  In it there is a perfect stair-step of children, each of them fitting in perfectly with their siblings, creating a lovely visual balance.  I didn't realize when we took that picture that it would be the last family picture where I was a mother surrounded by children who were all shorter than them, the last time I would be a mother hen with her brood.  From here until we stop taking pictures, I will be increasingly surrounded by children who are taller than me.  That lovely balance is forever gone.
I'm not one to mourn the end of my young mothering days - after all, I still have quite a lot of small child years left to go - but it is strange to move this new phase of mothering.  I've watched as friends have gone through the same transition and felt that they were so far distant from me.  Now I realize they were only a few years ahead and I would be catching up sooner than I thought.  I imagine that sooner than I think, I'll be looking back to this stage with nostalgia also.  When you have children life changes on a tangential curve, not an algebraic line.
I have often felt like I've been a bit on an impatient mother.  I so desperately needed for some of my brood to grow up that I spent quite a long time waiting for them to move out of the dependently needy stage.  I don't fault anyone who feels the same; it's very exhausting to be the only one who can do anything.  Now that there are a few who can help out, I'm perfectly happy to be where I am.  And I intend to enjoy it as long as it lasts.

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