I was telling Jason the other day, I feel like Ava has really leapt ahead in her "growing up" lately. She wants to be included in adult conversations more, she wants to borrow my iPod all the time to listen to my music, she says things that cause me to go, "Wow. That's a person right there, straight up."
With my dad in North Carolina
This probably sounds silly and like it should be obvious, but I often have to stop and remind myself that my children are maturing, that their thoughts are expanding and the things they think about are changing. (I've mentioned this before.) It's both exhilarating to see and a little overwhelming for me too. Although caring for a baby or toddler is physically demanding and an emotional strain at times, I'm finding that parenting an older kid is harder on a different level. It's like I told someone recently. Whenever one thing gets easier, something else gets harder.
A funny example happened the other night at dinner. The kids and I had gone to our local Italian place, and Ava was talking about how much she loved Taylor Swift's song, Love Story. You know, where the characters are named Romeo and Juliet? (Ava loves to belt out the line, "He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring!") I mentioned, kind of talking to myself, how the original Romeo and Juliet didn't have such a happy ending."What do you mean?" she asked. I told her that those names belonged to the characters in a very famous play, and that over the centuries, they've come to symbolize romance but that it really wasn't a happy story at all. Slippery slope! Before I knew it, I'm telling her all about forbidden love and parental control and double suicides (having to explain what "suicide" is in the process--yikes). Can't we just eat pizza and talk about spelling homework or something?
Tonight, we were driving up to the church for a meeting. "Mom," she says from the backseat, "What was the worst time in your life?"
Uhh. Ummm. You are 7. "My life's been pretty sweet, babe," I said, wondering how much of your world do you reveal to your 2nd grader, you know? She persisted: "Yeah, but if you had to name one really bad time, what would you say? Alright, I thought. At some stage, you have to let your kids know who you are, right? Not just as their mom, their caretaker, but as a person with a history and experiences that happened before they were born.
So I picked an experience I thought she could maybe wrap her brain around. I told her about a difficult bout of depression that I dealt with as a 15 year old. How one of my aunts said some cruel, terrible things about my parents and caused a major rift in my extended family. How it caused me to be really angry and upset. How I had jaw surgery around that same time and had to deal with a slow recovery time. She listened, asking a few questions about details, but quiet mostly. I didn't dwell on any of it, just gave her a really brief synopsis.
Silence in the car. "What about you, Ava?" I ventured. "What's been the worst time of your life?" What would she say? What insight would it give me into her burgeoning little world? "Well," she said, "I'd have to say that it's riding in the backseat with Nate when he's being so annoying." Okay, maybe not so much insight into her burgeoning little world.
"Babe," I said, "If that is the most difficult thing you have to deal with in life, you are going to be really blessed."