There is a natural evolution that occurs as parents when you move from child #1 to child #5. As the parent to “precious child #1” you secretly judge those parents of multiple children who have lost that “new parent edge.”
(Admit it. You know you did!)
You would look at their poor neglected #3 child who eats Cheerios off the floor, and for whom there is not a photo to be found, and you would say to yourself,
“That will never be me.”
Famous last words, right?
I remember secretly pitying Child # 3…or 4…or 5 of my friends as I attentively tended my # 1. I was on my third scrapbook for Grace and she wasn’t a year old and poor “Suzy’s” only proof of existence was a blurred cell phone shot that her mom snapped as she crawled away (unsupervised, of course!) 😉
Then I was blessed with #2.
And God chuckled.
Then came #3
And God laughed.
And then we adopted # 4 and #5
And God clutched His sides and howled. He has been rolling on the floor ever since.
All those “I would nevers” that I once whispered in self-righteous judgment have been thrown back in my face.
I have been humbled.
I have become a child #5 Momma,
and no place is that more evident than on the sidelines of a Cub Scout pinewood derby.
Over the course of the last 10 years; between Awanas, cub scouts, and youth activities, we have assisted our children in the creating, shaping, and painting of 25 pinewood derby cars. As I reflect back on Gracie’s first few cars (I can reflect back because she is my first born and those photos are all beautifully scrapbooked) I see that parenting evolution that I swore would never happen.
I remember our first Pinewood derby race. Hours were put into researching the rules about design and weight. Toby and I went online to look for tricks and hints for building a winning car. Gracie weighed every design possibility and Toby patiently worked with her in his shop as she turned her block of wood into a car. Weights were added, wheels were treated, and we all waited for the night of the race with eager anticipation.
Fast forward 10 years…
To a very different season of our life.
(The kitchen at midnight, 19 hours prior to the pinewood derby race…that we had both forgotten about.)
Katie: “Oh crud, I totally forgot about the little boys’ race tomorrow night. What time can you be home?”
Toby: “I’ll have to meet you there. I’m working late”
Katie: “Then I need you to cut their cars out now so they can paint them tomorrow.”
Toby: (deep sigh) “Where are they?”
(This led to a 30 minutes search for the car kits.)
Katie: “What paints should I have them use tomorrow?”
Toby: “Just have them color them with Sharpies.”
Katie: (looking incredulous) “Really?”
It was at that moment I realized we had arrived. We were officially one of “those” parents. Poor child #4 and #5.
Katie: “What about grease for the wheels or weights for the cars?”
Toby: “Nah, just have them glue some quarters to the top of their cars.”
It was on that inspired thought that we shuffled off to bed.
The sun did come out the following day. The cars were finished in time (kinda.) The boys had a blast despite the poor paint jobs, the generic designs, and the poorly fastened quarters that continued to fly off the top of the cars each time they hit the cushion at the end of the track.
They didn’t win first (or second, or ….well never mind) but they had a lot of fun.
Maybe that is what this parenting gig is all about: allowing ourselves to find joy in the less than ideal situations that arise, and cutting ourselves a little slack when our thirty something selves no longer “measure up” to who we were as parents when there was just child #1.
Hopefully any resentment my boys might one day feel when they compare their pinewood derby photos to those of their older siblings will dissipate as they watch their own child #3 eat dirty Cheerios off the floor
and they will realize their Momma could have done worse…
At least there was some photo proof!