A corner was turned recently, though I can’t pinpoint exactly when or where. Kind of suddenly, things seem to be on a different course than they were just a little while ago.
It started dawning on me when we were, after 15 years in the house, starting to haul out stuff that had been accumulating. Toys and other activities were the biggest culprits. It was easy to get rid of some of them. Setting them out by the driveway with a “FREE” sign made quick work of several piles. As I sifted through stacks of old workbooks and coloring books, I began to recall why I still had them. It seemed not that long ago that I put them aside with all good intentions to get them out on some rainy day and have some wholesome, educational fun with the boys. Maybe we didn’t have a whole lot of boring, rainy days between then and now, because I don’t think we ever did get back to those books.
At some point during the purge, Hubby tried to get rid of our entire stockpile of crayons. When I balked, he asked, very reasonably, “When’s the last time they used crayons?” That triggered a follow-up question in my mind: When will they ever use them again? and the gut-wrenching, bitch-of-a-truth answer: Probably never.
Hubby was going through a spindle of DVDs and remarked, “Suddenly we have a whole bunch of movies that the kids won’t watch again”. And he was right. Transformers, Scooby Do and other once-safe favorites have been replaced by all kinds of other viewing, much of it requiring a pre-screening by us for appropriateness and some of it requiring a firm denial for being not appropriate at all. Apparently, as evidenced by his word choice (he'd said suddenly), Hubby was feeling the abrupt shift in direction, as well.
The huge binful of Hot Wheels tracks and sets offered some brief hope. I was all set to put it up for sale but when I checked with the boys, they said they - mostly the youngest one - wanted to keep it and set up the tracks one last time. He was particularly interested in one set – a car wash system that used actual water and soap to spiffy up the cars. The first time we played with it, I can remember that it was quite a production. It involved cups of water and dishsoap and towels and a bit of effort, but he just loved it! And then I can remember at least one time when I said, “Not right now” when asked to set it up again. I’m hoping that it’s not a phantom memory conjured by a guilty conscience, but I think I can remember a few other times when he enjoyed that set…right? And, oh no – please be a phantom memory of him playing with it in the driveway, all by himself because everyone else was busy doing something else. Ugh. Screech back into real-time: even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since he wanted to save his Hot Wheels, he has since given me the go-ahead to sell them. And we never got around to playing with that set again.
And then there’s the office. Within the last year, I saw a pic on Pinterest of a bright and cheerful room, decorated with kids’ art, with the daybed turned into a happy reading nook. It has been my mission to transform the office into that place; a vibrant yet peaceful retreat for the boys. Maybe they would come to enjoy reading (it’s usually like pulling teeth) in that room. I even bought blank framed canvases on which they were to create original paintings to hang on the walls above the daybed. Um. When, since the first time I saw the picture and thought it would be perfect for my kids, did my vision for the room suddenly become out of touch, too juvenile for them?
Finally, I had to full-on acknowledge the truth I’d been ducking. On a recent beautiful Saturday morning, I found myself watching what was to be C’s very last game at our little league park, ever, and I couldn’t really believe it was happening. As if on a drive to an unhappy destination, I always knew where we were headed. I had made the most of the journey, not focusing on what was ahead, but instead looking out the side windows and thoroughly enjoying the spectacular sights as they came and went. Then, out of nowhere – brake check! What, we’re here already? The ride was so much fun! How can we possibly be at the end of the line so soon? But there we were.
At the beginning, when they're babies, there are only open doors – open wide to the future. As they go along, some of those doors begin to close. Some close softly, without notice, like growing out of the last shoe size. Some doors are closed joyfully – buh-bye, diapers! Some close sneakily, because you’d probably have been able to keep them open a little while longer if you realized they were closing, like the kids taking tub baths together or pulling them around in the Radio Flyer. And some doors are slammed shut loudly and abruptly, jarring you out of your reverie, sometimes even catching a few fingers in the jamb, because you weren’t quite ready for the finality and sometimes outright busting your nose because you stood stubbornly in the way.
I’m feeling like a lot of doors are closing around me lately, right in my face, rudely, without my permission or regard for my opinion on the matter. Each time, I feel like I stand there staring at it, wondering if – and doubting that – I did the best I could before it was too late. Was there really a lack of rainy days when we could have leisurely browsed through those neglected activity books, or did I waste so many opportunities? Did I color enough with them? Did we start letting them watch big kid movies too soon? Did he get to enjoy his Hot Wheels car wash as much as he’d liked, or was I “too busy” too many times? Why didn’t I get that reading nook together sooner? In the end, a closed door means no going back, no matter what regrets or questions still remain.
Not one to wallow in a funk for too awfully long, I’m trying to buck up for whatever comes next. I’m still feeling a bit of despair, but holding on to a few mementos and changing my mental tack seem to be helping.
I kept one big box of 96 crayons – just in case someone wants to use them. I've noticed that the boys will still sit and watch practically any Disney movie on TV if they happen upon it, so I think we’ll keep some of those DVDs around for a while longer. I’m still planning to convert the office into a pleasant space for them, but with décor befitting young men. I’ll take my cues from the art they create on those canvases. Little league might be over for C, but there’s modified baseball and Babe Ruth to look forward to and besides, E still has 3 more years at the little league park. And, perhaps by the hand of providence, that binful of Hot Wheels won’t sell. I’ve lowered the asking price, but so far, no takers. So maybe if I hurry, there’s still time to get in one last car wash.