The Next Room

Days like these, I wish I had been smart enough when my kids were smaller to buy one of those oversized rulers above that crafty people make out of reclaimed wood.

I wish I would have plunked down the money and ordered one or made one and recorded the progress of my sweet babies growing.

I wish I could have brought that thing with me and found a home for it in our new old farmhouse.

At the very least, I wish I would have thought to snap a photo of the small piece of wall that served as a measuring post in our former house.

Mostly I wish that time would freeze and let me catch my breath for a second.

This growing up stuff is wrecking havoc on the emotional well-being of this momma.

Tonight I watched my eldest daughter transform from a child to a full-fledged babysitter.

It was bound to happen someday.

I just can't believe someday

It happened as nonchalantly as the tule fog has been rolling in lately to surround our farmhouse.

I was chatting with a friend about an event coming up and she mentioned she had been thinking about asking my daughter to babysit. Coincidentally, my daughter had been asking me if she could start babysitting. My friend and I both started babysitting at her age, so it was a valid request. While I was processing through that, I started to reminisce with my friend about my inglorious first solo babysitting gig,

It was a disaster.

For the first time, I had to make food on my own for someone else. Box mac n' cheese. I ended up ruining the first batch because I put the powder in with the boiling noodles. And then the kids went psycho crazy. It's like they could sense my nervousness. I ended up calling my mom crying because the kids weren't listening to me and frankly, I was scared.

She came over and laid down some magic mom law and those kids shaped up and went to bed without a fuss.

Eventually, I figured it out. Things got easier.

But as I talked about that episode with my friend, I had a brilliant idea. What if we babysat together? What if we showed up together, got all the info, worked together to make dinner (and yes, we made Mac n' Cheese and yes I made sure she knew how to wait on the cheese powder), and then what if I left for an hour or so and let her do it on her own. I would be close by with my phone if she needed me, but far enough away for her to have some independence and gain some confidence?

So, that's what we did.

I left Hayden with the toddler happily finishing his dinner and her setting out art supplies to work on with his five-year-old sister. I gave her some pointers on when to start bath time and what should happen while I was gone.

And then I left.

And I drove to Starbucks, ordered a drink and read some stuff I had been meaning to read. I didn't worry. I didn't look at the time (too much). I just enjoyed some peace and quiet.

After about 45 minutes, I finished my drink, gathered my stuff and headed back.

My daughter was just finishing up bath time with the five-year-old and making silly faces at the toddler who was wearing a bowl on his head and playing peekaboo. Everything was calm. Everything was fine.

I jumped in to help transition one child out of the bath and another one into it. I resisted the urge to take over and tell her what to do (mostly). I watched her help get the five-year-old dressed in her pajamas, comb out her hair, help her brush her teeth, help feed her fish, help console her when they realized that one had died (so sad), and then get into bed.

I marveled at how she was able to take the toddler who has struggled with going to sleep, and get him down on her first try.

As we tidied up the house together (one of my tried and trues of being an awesome babysitter -- leaving the house cleaner than when you arrived), I watched her taking mental notes of things and even literally watched her do dishes as I sat on the couch and read (I could get used to this).

And I was proud. So momma proud of my little (big) girl.

However, there was a part (a tiny but loud part) of me that was sad. Because time is moving faster than I ever could have imagined when I held her in my arms over twelve years ago.

My girl who "had so much fun playing with the kids tonight" is still a kid in many ways herself. But she is almost as tall as me. She can wear my clothes. And she has her own Starbucks card which she used to reward herself for a job well done.

She sipped her coffee and announced, "I feel like a teenager. I earned my own money. I am drinking my own coffee. Soon...I'll be driving."

I choked a bit on my own drink at that.

It's the one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood that is tearing up a piece of a my heart.

But it's a rite of passage that is as important as time itself.

Our little ones grow into people who aren't so little. And while I may mourn the layer of childhood that Hayden shed tonight, I am more touched and excited to see what a wonderful nurturing young woman she has grown into. I was privileged to fast-forward a bit and have a glimpse into the future of her days as a mother herself.

And she will be so good at it.

"Don't worry about spilling your milk. It's okay. Everyone does it."

"Don't be sad about your fish dying. He's going to heaven. It will be okay."

"Don't be scared. Let's pray and ask God to be with you...and I'll be in the other room if you need me."

And maybe that's what makes it all a bit more okay in my momma heart tonight. She may go on to babysit without me. She may go away to college. She will undoubtedly have children of her own.

That's the way of things, I know.

But I also know that I will always be her mom. And as long as I have breath within me, I, too, will always and forever be in the "other room" if and when she needs me.

Hayden, age 12, babysitter extraordinaire

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