On Monday, I got a voicemail in the morning; it was one of the kindergarten moms inviting Bub over to play. He was excited and giddy and that afternoon I drove him over and the only nervous question he asked was, "Do you think they have a dog?"
In the driveway, I thought for a second about my options; it's freezing, do I unstrap all of these kids and go up to the door? Do I send Bub up and wave from the driveway like a mom thankful to dump her kid off for the afternoon? Do I leave the little monkeys and take Bub up to the door and hope I don't get invited inside and have to say, "Oh, but I left my kids in the driveway..."?
So I unstrapped all of the kids. We all climbed up a mountain of steps to get to their front door in a whirlwind of cold air and I awkwardly fumbled to squeeze this hipped baby into the house while trying to pull a 3-year-old hand reluctantly into the entryway, and keep any fingers from getting smashed as the door closed behind us. And as the door did close behind us and we all stood there, windblown and kind of in shambles, I looked up into the eyes of this mom and I could have been imagining it but I think I almost saw "all of those options and this is what you decided?" Because then it was a split second and Bub ran off with his friends and I was left standing on the doormat having to turn around to do it all over again -- open the door, clutch the baby on my hip, pull the 3-year-old hand, don't let the hats blow away, watch your step, don't smash your fingers, hurry it's cold, no-really-hurry it's cold, pick up a dropped mitten, get everybody into the truck, and by the time I buckle all of the carseats and finally relax behind the steering wheel I have to check my own fingers for frostbite.
And I sigh. Like me, this mom has three boys. But while my oldest is a kindergartner, her youngest is a kindergartner. She's out of the trenches. I know that her life isn't any easier than mine. I got a tiny, teeny, sliver, tip-of-the-iceberg sample of what bigger kid problems look like when Bub started kindergarten. I know that their problems and challenges grow just as quickly as they do. But sometimes I'd just like my day's biggest obstacle to not involve someone else's bottom or bowel movements. I'd like to only dress myself. I'd like someone to say "I want a snack" and for me to be able to say "OK, go make one" -- and then see them do that. I'd like to drop one of the boys off at a friend's house without feeling like I just climbed Mount Everest with a baby on my hip. But if I give up these little problems of little kids, then what kind of problems does that leave me with... a failed test? A failed class? Hanging out with bad friends? I'd like to think the problems of having big kids are as trivial as the mountains of stinky socks I know I'll be stumbling over for years to come, but I know it's so much more than that. And if I think too hard about it I get really thankful that I wipe bottoms all day.
I think I've given this so much thought because Bub has a loose tooth. Seriously. He has a loose tooth. I can see in his eyes that he's excited, but a little untrusting of the whole situation. And while Bub's front teeth are wobbling in his mouth, his gums ready to surrender and give them up, Scooter keeps sprouting more teeth than I can even keep track of. So I end up with this crazy display of gum-giving, gum-sprouting, circle of life awesomeness right before my eyes. Gum-giving. Gum-sprouting. Sunrise. Sunset. I remember the exact moment I saw that bit of tooth bust through Bub's gums, and now here it is ready to release itself. The circle of life.
I guess the point is that I should be thankful for all of the stages. The Mount Everest hip baby stages, bottom-wiping stages, teeth growing teeth falling stages, stray sock stages, and whatever stages may and will come. Each boy has his own delicate blend of challenging and inspiring phases, and it's always going to be that way. Someday I'll wipe my last baby bottom, but today this grinning, gummy, teethy smile makes it all worth it.