The Most Perfect Roller Coaster


A funny thing has happened in the past couple of months that my husband and I are just beginning to wrap our heads around, in that way that you notice something but you’re not sure it’s real yet, and you don’t want to get too excited or even name it lest it turn out to be a phantom or a fluke: Our kids seem to be becoming…friends.

This quiet, joyful turn in their too-often-fraught sibling relationship coincides with another funny thing happening — that I have very mixed feelings about — and that is the fact that my Babygirl, my tiny dancer daughter born with the big smile and the Buddha belly and the fierce sense of self, has morphed from baby to child with stunning speed.  Her legs have become long, her body no longer round in that soft baby way.  She wants to grow her hair, and apply conditioner herself, and pick out her own clothes.  She sasses me and slams doors as only a toddler transitioning to childhood or a teenager transitioning to adulthood can…but she can also hang.  She can hang and swim and keep up.  She can track LittleMan’s complicated, specific instructions on how the imaginary play game is going to go, and even contribute her own fantastic little ideas.

She is fun, and not in the way that she used to be fun, which was adorably and playfully.  She’s fun because she’s smart and verbal and has a big, bold personality (that may very likely kill me, which is a story for another time)…and this fact has changed everything.

A thousand years ago in Interweb time, by which I mean in April, we took a family vacation to Santa Cruz to play in some serious Pacific coast sand and also hit the Beach Boardwalk in the warm California sun.  I don’t know how I managed not to write about it earlier, but it went down in family history as the Best Vacation Ever.  Not because the weather complied, giving us a picture-perfect day at Natural Bridges State Beach, with its rock formations and pools teeming with anemones, and protected eddies for splashing.  Not because it was Easter, and therefore full of sweets and scavenger hunts and little surprises and the kinds of things that would normally be considered “bribes” but in this case were “just because”.


No, all of that was great, of course, but honestly it was the Best Vacation Ever because it was easy.  It was so easy.  No stroller, no diaper bag, no potty accidents, no naps scheduled, missed, or stolen.  The kids were adaptable enough to roll with the punches, tall enough to do any of the rides they wanted to do, brave enough to chase the waves and go upside on the ferris-wheel-cage-thing.  They were grateful.  They ate when they needed to, and when the days were done they bathed and crashed in a heap on the couch of our AirBnB and laughed at the same jokes in the same movies.

Can I tell you?  I have had a toddler in one form or another for the past seven years, and I forgot it was possible for anything to be easy.  I was all, THOSE days are done!  Farewell spontaneity!

You want spontaneity?  After dinner in downtown Santa Cruz (which was a mile away from our rental and which we walked to, as in all four of us on the feet God gave us), LittleMan burst out into a verse of Gonna Make You Sweat and break-danced(ish) on a street corner.  I don’t even know where he learned to do that.  One more example of the ways in which our children grow up as their own people, no matter how much we hover.  But my husband and I collapsed laughing, and I remember thinking: I don’t ever want this to be over.  This is life.  This is what we put the time in for.  This is the reward.

I was reminded of this vacation, and this post, which has languished in my drafts folder for months, over the past week in Tahoe, when our kids bolted together down the path to the pool and we could just stroll at our own lazy-grown-up pace because they’re going to be okay.  I was reminded of it when my husband and I stood, paralyzed in amazement as the kids entered their fourth hour of happy, constructive, independent play, and we just decided to enjoy it.  I was reminded of it when the babysitter arrived for our one vacation date night, and the kids stood at the top of the stairs holding hands and introduced themselves unbidden, and then LittleMan scampered to clear their dinner plates and wash them because “that’s one of my chores I do to help out.”  I was reminded that even in the toughest months, when I’m feeling so overwhelmed and anxious and conflicted about so many things, there is this: my beautiful, beautiful family.  My beautiful, beautiful life’s work.

We’ve arrived.






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