One thing I really like about our neighborhood is that there are TONS of kids. On our street alone every house that surrounds ours has young kids, and at any given moment you’ll see a little boy or girl hustling from one yard to the next. When we moved in I was 9 months pregnant, but our yard quickly became a hot hangout because of our dog; our goldie was the most popular creature on the street in no time. Two years later the kids are still coming over to throw tennis balls with the dog, but now they’re also asking if Junior can come out and play. For the life of me I can’t understand why 6 year olds have any interest in playing with a 2 year old, but they do. Today, for example, I was out front doing yard work and no less than 3 times the gang of neighborhood boys came over to ask when Junior and the dog could come out and play, and no less than 3 times I explained that Junior was napping and I’d let them know when it was a good time.
They hovered, going from one backyard to the other, keeping a watchful eye on our yard. Finally Junior woke up and I brought him outside to see “the guys”. For the next 90 minutes my little munchkin, a full foot shorter than the others, ran and played and high-fived and fist bumped just like one of the big kids. They played tag and jumped around and threw balls, Junior squealing and cracking up every time they made a move. If they said go, he went. If they said come here, he came. They truly had fun running around with my little toddler, and kept a watchful eye on him the entire time. One fella in particular would pick him up and drag him to the middle of the front yard if he felt Junior got too close to the street. These kids are rambunctious and often get into things they shouldn’t, as little boys do, but they were the perfect balance of fun and responsible when my baby boy was playing along. I found the whole experience hilarious and loved how excited Junior was to be cut loose with the big kids. Well, “cut loose” may be a little exaggerated; he never left my sight for a second… I love the fact that these kids are spending so much of their free time outside, climbing trees and playing catch and skinning their knees. It’s what I used to do when I was their age, rather than being planted in front of a TV or video game. I also love the fact that they want to include my little pip squeak from time to time.
My baby is growing up. I’m no dummy, I’ve seen it coming. But I got a cold hard reality check when I tried to give Junior a hug in the midst of his afternoon play session. He squirmed his way out of my arms and said “no Mommy!” so fast my head spun. As soon as he got out of my grip he ran to catch up with the others, never giving me a second glance. Ouch. He’s a boy, so I know he’ll pull away from me as time goes on; I just hope it’s not happening already… Earlier tonight, after he devoured some mac-n-cheese and graham crackers for dinner (surprised?), I picked him up from his high chair and asked him to give me a good hug. He leaned his head onto my shoulder and instead of saying those 3 wonderful words I love to hear, he gave me 3 consecutive poots. I guess that’s the big boy way of telling me he loves me.