When I decided to have kids (many, many years ago), I had a very clear picture of what kind of parent I wanted to be and of how my kids' childhoods should look. I admit that it was a bit rose-colored, this picture in my head. Perhaps it was a bit old fashioned and a little unrealistic, but I was determined to make that picture into a reality, no matter what sacrifices I had to make. For the most part, I have succeeded in bringing that vision to life. It hasn't always been easy, but, it's been worth it.
Of course, as the kids have gotten older, I've had to adjust the picture in my head to account for their changing needs and developing interests, and, this hasn't always been the easiest thing to do, either. But, once again, totally worth it.
Many of the things that I wanted my kids to experience were based on the experiences that I had as a child. A lot of them revolved around time spent as a family and, especially, time spent outside. This is one of the main reasons that I started a garden when the kids were quite small; I wanted them to experience the feeling of dirt under their fingernails and of mud squishing between their toes. I wanted them to know what produce, fresh from the garden, tasted like, and to be aware of how that produce came to be.
One thing that I never envisioned, but that quickly became our reality, was the presence of frogs in our life. Yes, frogs.
For, you see; the first year that I planted the garden, a lone frog appeared and spent the summer lazily lounging under the zucchini plants. The frog so charmed my toddler, my pre-schooler and me; we made a special little house for him by turning a terra cotta flowerpot on its side and burying it halfway in the soil. The frog seemed to appreciate our efforts and we enjoyed his company throughout the summer.
Each year after that, we had a visit from the frog, or, from his progeny. I have photos of the kids with the frogs each year (mostly the Man-Cub since The Teenager quickly lost her interest in amphibians as she gained an interest in boys and other stuff) and I sort of came to take the froggy tenant for granted.
Until this year, that is. All summer long, I waited to see "our" frog, but, he never appeared. It didn't help matters when the Cub began to spend less and less time with me in the garden, opting instead to spend his time with video games and other endeavours, and, I admit; I got a little sad. The absence of my frog was rapidly becoming a metaphor for the diminishing childhood of my offspring and this was fairly unacceptable to me. Except, I had no choice; I could no more wish an extended childhood on my kids than I could will a frog to appear, and, I had to come to terms with the facts.
My kids were outgrowing me.
And, that was ok (mostly).
After all, I have done what I vowed to do all those years ago when I first elected to have them; I gave them the experiences that I felt would build a solid foundation on which they could stand as adults. And, we had a lot of fun while building that foundation.
Of course I'm nostalgic for their babyhoods, for their toddler years, for their pre-school and elementary school years, but; I'm also looking forward to seeing where they go from here. And, I know they will always be my babies, no matter how grown-up they get.
That said, I will admit to squeeing like a schoolgirl yesterday, when the Man-Cub, who was mowing the lawn, came to the front door and demanded that I grab my camera because he had just found an old friend and wanted a picture.
There is change ahead, that can't be denied. There are discoveries to be made and places to explore and people to meet. But, there are also memories to smile over and moments in time that will be played over and over in our hearts and in the stories that we tell.
And that's exactly the way I pictured it in my head all those years ago, too.