Saturday, February 23, 2013

Uncharted Territory

Vacation week is more than halfway over, and we're finally getting out of the house and doing a "play date" at Chuck E Cheese. It's just tokens and blinking lights and ridiculous costumed characters, but things feel strange, in a good sort of way.

Anna is having two friends from school dropped off there so they can hang out for a couple of hours. The two girls arrive and I watch all three of their blonde heads bob off to do their own thing. I can blink and see them the day I first saw the three of them together -- the first day of three-year-old preschool, playing at the dollhouse. Now one of them is nine and the others will be soon. For the first time, I look and really see that the teenage years are calling, are breathing down all of our necks.

This is a strange feeling, letting Anna roam free to have these private adventures with friends.

Stranger still is setting up a play date for Ethan with two friends from school. One arrives about an hour before the first. Both boys are more social than Ethan, and I notice the way he has trouble staying focused on people rather than the games, on actually looking at the others and answering questions. Yet the fact that we're here is an accomplishment in itself.

At one point we three moms are sitting at tables chatting, and I realize I have no idea where either of my kids are. Anna I know is fine, but it takes everything in me not to hunt Ethan down. A year or two ago there would have been no way...I would have been petrified to find him off in the bathrooms or running out the door. When I do spot him, he's climbing in the playscape, not really hanging with his friends, a bit burned out by two hours in this sensory-overloaded place. But -- for five minutes I'd chatted and let my kids do their thing.

I felt, for the first time, like the parent of school-aged kids and not little ones.

That was a little bittersweet, but rather freeing.

There are times I know I have to live in the now. It's really where we all should live as often as possible. My now is a time before my daughter is a teenager and quite possibly thinks I'm completely humiliating. Now is perhaps, I know with Ethan, this innocent space of time where he can play and goof off with both typical and not-so-typical kids while they are still young enough not to notice or dwell on their differences.

The Chuck E Cheese band, for some absurd reason is belting out the old song "Head Over Heels" by Tears for Fears. I sit for a moment and think and let the end of the a song, those chanting, sing-song notes that run through my head in quiet hours of the night, that strange, stick-in-your-head melody:

La La La La La
La La La La La
La La La - La La La La La La
In my mind's eye
One little boy, one little man
Funny how...time flies...

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