MONIQUE BATSON — Sad to see growing kids off to school
When Bryce was 3 years old, he carried around a plastic donkey from a dollar store set of farm animals. He called it his “doinkey.”
When Jackie was 2 years old, she couldn’t pronounce the word “love.” But she’d wrap her tiny little arms around your neck and say, “I lush you.”
As a toddler, Colby would express a sore throat by saying he had “bees in his mouf.”
And at 2 years old, Riley, who we called “Ri Ri” then, just assumed anyone whose name he didn’t know or couldn’t remember was also named “Ri Ri.”
Those are the things I thought about Wednesday morning when Riley, now 14, and Colby, now 16, left for their first day of school. For a brief moment, after years of taking four kids to different schools, I was happy that the remaining two were finally back in the same building — one a freshman, one a junior.
Until I realized it would be the last time.
And as I drove to The Port Arthur News building, I cried enough to dehydrate myself. My morning had been exceptionally busy. On top of making sure the boys made it to school, I also had to be at a school to take first-day photos for work. But once the work stopped, the car started, the music played and I had a few moments to think — well, that was it.
I have four kids but only two bio babies. If you hear me refer to Bryce or Jackie as my step children, it’s only because it is relative to that story. But as they were 2 and 3 when I met them and 17 and 18 when their father and I parted ways, they are as much my children as the two that share my blood.
Now one is 21, living in Las Vegas with his girlfriend, and I’ve yet to get to visit him (although they’ve made a few trips here). Jackie lives with me, but she is 19 and has her own life.
Colby, who used to come into my room at the slightest sound of thunder, is now part of the drumline and seems to have a social event every weekend that keeps him from home. And Riley, my youngest that I called my “Fun Dip Baby” when he was born because I thought he naturally smelt like the candy before realizing it was his hospital-issued pacifier, started his freshman year and will soon find his tribe. Then, like his brother, he’ll be gone all the time too.
No one seeks out Mom when it’s thundering, or when they need help making cereal. And in just four short years, I’ll have four grown adults that aren’t here for weekend movies where we argue over whether or not to put salt on the popcorn.
At this point (literally this point while writing this), I stopped for a moment because I was crying again. Jackie asked what was wrong, so I read what I had written. And at the moment, my 16-year-old appeared from the hallway and said, “Touching story. Also, first day of school and I already have a date to prom.”
So, instead of being a sane parent and saying something encouraging like, “that’s awesome,” I started sobbing again. Jackie looked and him and said, “Why? She just stopped crying!”
But my mom had prepared me for the sporadic breakdowns.
When I left work Wednesday, I called her just to cry. “This is how it goes,” she said. “They get older but you adjust.”
But once upon a time a now 21-year-old called me “Nonique” because he couldn’t pronounce my name. I helped potty train my daughter by wearing Pull-Ups too, so she could see they were for big girls.
A baby born and rushed to the Neonatal ICU because he wasn’t breathing spent a week on antibiotics and oxygen. But because I was only able to see him for 15 minutes every three hours, the nurses would wake me throughout the night. And post-Caesarian, give me a wheelchair to steady myself as I walked to the NICU just to see my son for a moment.
And then there was my Fun Dip baby whose crib was unfortunately set next to vertical blinds on Grigsby Avenue — a rather busy road near Woodcrest Elementary. And every morning I’d wake to him, stripped of his diaper and only in his birthday suit, holding the blinds out with his hands and dancing for everyone headed to the elementary school
Now as a mother, I call my mom almost every day. Even at 40, I still need her guidance, reassurance, and knowledge.
At this point I’ve come to terms that, in a very short period of time, my kids will no longer need me for the things they do now.
I only hope, as they age, they’ll discover my wisdom and guidance too. And that they always know — as my mom did for me to help a working parent with four kids — that I’ll be here to do their laundry, help clean their house, watch their kids and remind them when they’re 40 that their vehicle registration sticker needs to be renewed.
When my mom did those things, I always said, “Mother, I’m 40. I know how to deal with my registration sticker.”
But I wont say it again.
A parent never stops being a parent, and now I know sometimes just helping in anyway is everything, because the tiny toddler arms that once grabbed your neck eventually become the adult hands waving at the car as you drive away.
Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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