The thing that kept repeatedly striking me while we were on our vacation was how different it is now. Two of the three are teenagers. Little Man is just a year away from being a teen. Gone are the days of carseats and strollers. We only ever get one children’s menu at restaurants, and only typically use that if there isn’t a burger or plain pasta option on the regular menu. We don’t have to break from what we’re doing for someone to take a nap (unless it’s me our Spouse in need of a nap). It’s just different.
This trip was full of activity and adventure. That’s the biggest difference. We went zip lining. We hiked four times. Big Man golfed three times with Spouse and my father-in-law. They snorkeled. The older two went back and forth between the condo and the beach by themselves. And when we went shopping, they each used their own money, handling the transactions with us just watching.
They aren’t babies anymore. They aren’t little kids anymore. I’m realizing our time with them is flashing by, and will soon come to an end, and then a new, different phase will start. It’s amazing to watch. It’s also terrifying to watch. Big Man and the Princess sat in the row behind me on the plane. I didn’t have to check on them. They ordered their own sodas and snacks. They entertained themselves. I sat there on the beach as teenage boys, and a couple of creepy men, stared at my daughter. I wanted to yell out, “NOT OKAY! She’s a little girl!” but I couldn’t, because she isn’t a little girl. Big Man went to the pool by himself, because he could. He didn’t want to go to dinner with us one night, so he didn’t.
I kept checking myself – this trip just felt so different. They’re becoming so independent. They need me less. They are in that stage of getting ready to go out into the world on their own. It kind of made me sad. Our world will change all too soon – I can’t even imagine what I’ll do with myself when I’m not driving all the carpools, sitting for hours at the dance studio, running ragged to get laundry and grocery shopping done, hauling them to this doctor or that specialist, this activity, that birthday party.
In a way, I felt like I was shrinking around them, granted Big Man and Princess are both taller than I. I don’t know how to explain in – they were just there, in front of me, just on the front end of their lives, larger than life. Does that make any sense? Not that my life is at an end – I’m only halfway there. But I just felt smaller, and not just physically.
This trip wasn’t any less exhausting than those from their younger days, because we were so busy being adventurous. It was a different exhausting than that of taking care of toddlers and little kids. I like this new phase, and I don’t like this new phase. It’s fun to watch them take on the world in their own ways, but it’s also bittersweet. What I do know is it was different this time.