Kids’ emotional development, like their growth, is generally so gradual that you don’t notice it happening. It takes a comment from friends you haven’t seen for a while–“Whoa! Peatie sure has shot up, hasn’t he!”–to surprise you into realizing that the change has, indeed, been occurring under your very nose.
This month’s vacation created that needed perspective. We took a 20-hour drive back to ‘Love’s family cottage, which we’ve visited every summer Pookie has been alive. Every summer, the story has been the same: he’s perfectly okay if we’re at the cottage and he might have a few moments of happiness when we’re enjoying the beach out front, but he’s an utter beast on any day-trips, completely stressed and cranky and clingy and begging to leave. It doesn’t matter if we’re visiting the petting farm or the ice cream stand or the lighthouse, he’s equally miserable for all of them. It’s hard for the rest of us to enjoy excursions with his anxiety level so high.
And then there was this year. When we arrived at the cottage, it was nearly bedtime, and he flipped out over a stain on the ceiling. I thought, “Here we go again…” But that was pretty much the end of his freak-outs. He relished each day at the beach. He ASKED to climb the lighthouse again this year and bravely strolled around once we reached the top, even smiling for a picture, this child of mine who HATES being photographed. He had a blast at the petting farm, admiring the animals and bouncing like crazy on the jumping pillow and even going down an enormous tube slide all on his own. He placed an ice cream order–and then ate the ice cream.
Looking back at the pictures, I think, “Who IS this kid?” And then I hear him falling apart over the way the peanut butter looks on his toast and I am recalled to reality–but with a flavor of hope.
Sometimes when you have your nose to the grindstone and you’re around your kids day in and day out, it’s hard to see their progress. You begin to wonder if they’ll ever outgrow their quirks or difficult phases, if they’ll ever gain self-control and turn into mature, empathetic human beings. It’s so nice to have reassuring moments like these when the progress is apparent and you can convince yourself that this, too, shall pass.