In just a few days the youngest of my three children will turn eight and his car seat will removed from the car. In the state in which I live, eight years is the cut off for car seats. It’s amazing that I don’t really feel sad about it – no grieving my last baby, only relief.
I have had at least one car seat in my car for almost FIFTEEN years. That’s a long time to have a piece of equipment be a part of your life. More than bottles, cribs, high chairs or baby gates, or any baby proofing gadgets. They’re a nuisance – anyone who might ever take your child anywhere has to have one, or you switch yours to their car and remember to take it back before they drive away. A necessary evil of modern childhood. My husband has complained about them, “We never had these things when we were little” but the reality of childhood then was that there weren’t as many cars on the road, people (especially moms with little kids) didn’t drive as much, and God forbid you were in an accident chances are you were seriously hurt or died. They may be a nuisance, but there is no doubt they save lives.
I guess I should feel sad that the last of my children is leaving “little childhood,” but I’m really not. As much as my teenager is giving me sleepless nights and headaches and bad dreams about adolescence, the truth is that I’m enjoying her growing up and having a more “adult” relationship with her, and I’m excited about that time coming for my son. I know there are moms out there that bitterly grieve their babies becoming children and their children becoming teens, but I’m just not there. Maybe I will be once they start to leave the nest, but for now I relish seeing them flourish and becoming more independent (when they’re not scaring me to death that is!). I enjoy the more “grown up” conversations, having them read to ME, and doing their homework on their own.
Perhaps I’m not sad because while I’ve lost a little of myself in this motherhood journey, I haven’t lost my whole self. My children’s growing independence really doesn’t impact on my definition of who I am or how I see myself. I’m not so wrapped up in motherhood that I’ve lost who Lisa is – so I can let them go without losing myself.
So Saturday I will remove the last car seat from my car. It will be an outward sign of the maturity of my children and their growing independence from me, and that’s not a bad thing – it’s a good thing. We’ll make a big deal out of it, and his first ride in the car without one. I hope it helps him feel like he’s growing up and makes the day more special. In addition we’ll be doing our regular birthday traditions – a few gifts to open, dinner of his choice, and of course cake and ice cream!
Postscript: If you get all weepy and even seriously depressed over the reality of your little ones growing up I’m not judging you, I’m just saying what works for me. We all travel our own path in motherhood, and there’s enough judgment out there no matter how we go about it, and I don’t want anyone getting that sense from me. Again, this is just my reflection on my experience, not a statement of how it should be for everyone.