When I was younger, I was a babysitter. And not just any babysitter, I was a fantastic, highly sought after babysitter--one of the most popular in my (very) small town. Middle school, high school, and even much of college was financed in this manner. But do you want to know a secret? I never really liked taking care of the older kids (there are a handful of exceptions to this, and they know who they are!). I loved, loved, loved the babies, toddlers, and even preschoolers. I loved reading to them, cuddling with them, rocking them, doing arts and crafts...all of it. I just loved the little ones! When I was pregnant for the first time, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would love that baby. I knew I would know how to care for that baby, and I knew that the first few years with that baby would be the best years of my life. However, I always secretly worried that when that baby got older, my love would fade, my interest would wane, and I would have to fake enthusiasm for whatever they were doing. Of course, like so many of my preconceived notions about parenting, I really never had to worry about this! (Love fade??? What?? The things you learn...)
My first baby, the one that made me a mother, the one that changed our lives in so many awesome ways, is now 11 years old. She has entered the years that I never thought I would enjoy and here I am, soaking up every minute of it. Today, we were riding back from one of her fencing lessons and we were talking about her first big tournament that is coming up. She is excited and nervous and scared and eager...everything you would expect of someone about to really stretch their wings for the first time. It was at that moment that it really dawned on me how very much I LOVE LOVE LOVE having an older kid! She and I are going to head out next weekend, on our own! We are going to get a hotel room and hang out. We are going to a fencing tournament where I will support this amazing kid as she does something SHE loves, and I will love every second of it! We will share meals and treats and a long car ride. We will talk about everything and nothing. We will laugh and joke and connect in ways that we simply can't when surrounded by younger siblings. I'm so lucky to have a kid on the cusp of the rest of her life and I can't put into words how much I'm enjoying being with her. A friend of mine with older kids (in their 20s) told me that having grown kids is so much fun--I was hesitant to believe her, but now I'm sure she is right. If my 11yo is so awesome and just gets more and more awesome with each passing day and year, I can only imagine what having a 20yo will be like! (But not too soon, Erin, let's enjoy being 11 first, okay??)
Happy Birthday to my biggest kid--you are simply amazing, really and truly AMAZING.
(Erin after this year's Polar Bear Plunge on January 1st)