I was about 7 years old when I knew I would choose to stay home and raise my children instead of working full-time.
Our house was THE house. The house where all of the neighborhood kids congregated.
In the summers, it was an ant bed of activity. Food was always available and permission always given … when we thought about asking.
We would hop on our bikes in the morning and go — in the woods surrounding the streets; on our bikes in the mud; climbing trees and building forts; fighting wars and holding tea parties.
When the inevitable injury occurred, we would treat it ourselves with Band-Aids or mud.
If it was severe, the injured party would head over to our house. Why? Because our mom was always home.
I think we were able to play so freely and roam miles into the woods because of the safety net we all took for granted — our home base. I didn’t have words for it at the time, but I knew our house was special, magical. All the kids wanted to be there.
The funny thing was, I didn’t want to be at other kids’ houses. They were quiet, orderly. Their overworked parents mostly instructed us on what NOT to do.
My mom, on the other hand, was handing out extra sheets for us to build more forts with. She sat on the back-porch swing and watched us make mud pies with the silverware and bowls from our kitchen.
The other parents viewed us from afar, too immersed in their grown-up world to appreciate the magic of childhood.
My mom joined us in pretending, and took pleasure from watching us explore. I knew I wanted to be like that. While my mom would sigh and admire other people’s beautiful homes, I fully appreciated our rambunctious life.
There was no other house in our neighborhood where you were allowed to roller skate inside when it was raining. I felt, even then, that she had made a decision to rotate her life so that it faced her children. She still enjoyed her own interests of painting, volunteering, etc., but her focus was on us.
She was fully aware of how fast the calendar moves from a child’s first birthday when there is one candle, until there are 16. She didn’t want to miss any of it. While we are mothers from the birth of our child until we die, there is only a small window when our children fully embrace US into their lives. In a few short years, they grow out of our laps. And once they start school, the world becomes a bigger influence than mom and dad.
It starts small. First, they jump on the bus without a glance back. Then, they stop wanting to hold your hand.
Childhood has a very short shelf life. My mom was aware of all of this, and without speaking of it, so was I.
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