As I sit in the passenger seat, my oldest son takes the steering wheel for the first time. I feel like I am the one in a rite of passage: the rite of teaching a child to drive.
My 15-year-old, Kieran, now asks me questions like whether or not the van has fog lights. He’s getting ready to start high school next September and thinking about what college he’d like to attend.
After getting the keys back, I drive by the spray park under construction in Pioneer Park by the Puyallup Library. My second son asks me every day when it will be done.
“When, Mom? When?”
Quinton is 4 and getting ready to start kindergarten. He is working on the alphabet and pestering us daily to get a lion or some other wild beast as a pet. College is not even close for him except when I think about how we will pay for it.
I didn’t plan to have my children this far apart. My husband and I thought we would have Quinton by the time Kieran was 5, but that wasn’t how it worked out for us. We tried for years before our son was born, and Kieran was almost 11 by then.
Sometimes I feel like I’m living in that movie, “Groundhog Day,” in which Bill Murray wakes up at the same time each morning to “I Got You Babe” on the clock radio and the day repeats itself. I arrange for daycare like I did 10 years ago. I see the pediatrician for ear infections like I did 10 years ago. I go to places like the spray park like I did 10 years ago.
But not everything is a rewind. The boys play together like I always dreamed they would. The play is different, though, because a 15-year-old wrestling with a 4-year-old does not look like a 2-year-old and 7-year-old. They squabble over toys, because no matter how old you are (they tell me) a Nerf gun is something worth fighting for. Because of this wrestling and squabbling, the decibel level in my home rises higher than it was 10 years ago.
The boys themselves are different, from their sleep habits to their personalities to their physical size. Most of the mom tricks I learned with my oldest do not work with my youngest.
Of course, I am also 10 years older, which sometimes means I’m wiser and often means I’m more tired than I was before.
Whether or not I’m a rewind mom, there is something marvelous about holding on to those keys for a bit longer with my youngest while at the same time thrilling in the independence I see for my oldest.
Parenting, like so many things in life, is not how I envisioned it. The battles over Nerf guns are not something I considered while longing for a second child as soon as possible. On the other hand, the driving lessons combined with spray parks turned out surprisingly better than I could have ever dreamed.
Rewinding the mothering tape brought me joys my original plans might have missed.
Karrie Zylstra Myton of Puyallup teaches at Bates Technical College and writes children's fiction. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.