Going out with kids is hard. Whether you have one kid or six, navigating the grocery store while keeping little hands occupied and little eyes averted from the Star Wars cereal is not an easy feat. Sometimes, we can be with our kids all day and not really take time to notice them. I've been making it a priority to spend intentional one on one time with my kids each week. I want to know them, laugh at their jokes and appreciate the things that make them so special and unique.
This series "coffee dates" is documenting that intentional time of knowing our kids. I'm starting it off with a piece I've written about before on my previous personal blog.
After three babies, I'm finally comfortable being a mom of young children. By the time Scout came around, not much was able to shake me. I was ready for the sleepless nights and all the other world rocking things that come with having a newborn baby. No amount of poop or sore nipples rattled me by the third time around. Now, after a few years with toddlers and preschoolers under my belt, I have at least two small toys plus crayons in my bag at all times. I love anything involving talking animals and I think preschool jokes are hilarious. I can maneuver through Target with three small kids like a Nascar driver and have learned that a spare diaper can sop up even the most atrocious spills.
But something happened that crashed my confidence in parenting this past year. I got a big kid. A first grade heartthrob whose pants are suddenly too short and who out eats everyone in our household. For so many years, he's been somewhat of an extension of me. But somehow, overnight almost, he became his own person. He is no longer a preschooler, but a full fledged big kid. He is a person with his own opinions and ideas and interests. He's in that awkward stage of no longer being adorable but not quite yet mature. His jokes aren't quite as hilarious anymore.
A few months ago, we were spending a few days in Nashville while Nathan worked. Traveling with him is always alot of fun, but it's also exhausting. No one ever gets any real rest time and mama hardly ever gets any time alone. One afternoon, Nathan sent me off to a coffee shop to get some work done. I had two glorious hours to spend alone. As I was heading out the door, Max stopped me and asked if he could go. I'm usually protective of any alone time I get, but that afternoon, I begrudgingly agreed and let him tag along.
We got settled with our coffee and hot chocolate. I worked on some projects and he worked with legos and read. I was so surprised that afternoon. I was with my kid, but I didn't need to wipe any spills. I didn't have to remind him to sit still or be quiet. I didn't even have to accompany him when he needed to go to the bathroom. I sometimes forgot I brought a kid with me until I looked up and saw a blonde hunk sitting across from me writing his own Lego instructions. This afternoon with my big kid gave me a new hope for life with big kids. Usually, no matter how much fun we have, I'm always exhausted after spending an afternoon with the kids. I'm sweaty from all the tending and I have at least one big spill on my pants. But as we left the coffee shop that afternoon, I realized how relaxed I was. It felt like coming home from a date night or an afternoon with a friend. I loved this coffee date so much that I no longer hesitate when he asks to join me as I sneak out to a coffee shop in the evening.
What am I supposed to do with these new found opinions, ideas and unfunny jokes? These awkward in between years? Lately, I've been learning how much fun it is. This big kid doesn't need the hands on caring he used to need. He can wipe his own things and cut his own food. But he has a whole new set of needs to be met. He needs an ear to listen to his new opinions and ideas. He needs someone to cheer him on as he pursues his own interests. And sometimes, he just needs someone to laugh at his jokes.