I think the traditional "big kid" status is usually confirmed when a child enters elementary school, but I'm letting mine claim it early. I spent today at Mother's Morning Out working with 2 year olds. I had five kids entirely to myself for four hours, and it was lovely. But it made me realize how little I have to do for my big kid any more.
It turns out I've worked for the last 4 1/2 years to get him to the point where besides the constant questions and perpetual 4 year old whine, he's actually very self-sufficient. No diapers. No feeding. No preparing basic meals or snacks. He can do all of that on his own. He can get into his car seat, pick out library books, wipe his butt, wash his hands, pick out and put on his clothes and shoes, write his name, read basic signs, bowl a bowling ball, hit a baseball from a tee, make friends, etc.
I forget sometimes, as I get caught up in the 4 year old challenges to remember what it was like to have a little person who wants to do everything by himself (even things he really can't) and says "No!" all the time. As a teacher, I completely respect the need for independence and allow it, until it interferes with safety. As a mother, I'm pretty sure that although I understood the necessity of it, it still drove me mad when it was time to go inside at night and he'd run away screaming and crying to stay outside (or at a train table).
So, as I sat at Marble Slab with my child tonight, watching him consume a child-sized cotton candy ice cream with marshmallows in it for an hour, because he was too excited that a friend who is formerly from the All Stars II showed up at the ice cream place and he could see Mr. Giles from Little Gym getting into his minivan in front of Schnuck's he couldn't concentrate, I smiled.
It never occurred to me that I'd continue having these "ah ha" moments. Rather than being first words or first steps, they're more like moments of awe at how we've grown together as a child and a mom. Of course, in the car before ice cream, X-man said, "I want you to marry me, Mom." It was a sweet proposal. I had to explain that it was way better for me to be his Mom -- because that was forever. Marriage, not always so much. But it was an earnest declaration of appreciation and love, and it wasn't just because I was buying him ice cream.
In every classroom I've been in at NG, the teachers have all said something to me about how X-man and I do a lot together during the week. We have playdates and events to go to. We visit the library all the time. We go to parks and take Tae Kwon Do together. I'm just -- so grateful for that time. It's moments like tonight when I realize exactly how close we are, and how much we both love, respect and appreciate each other.
And I swear he gets such gross little kid ice cream, because he knows neither MacTroll or I will steal it. :-)