There are about a dozen kids in my local extended family now, the products of my generation of cousins. They range in age and ability but they are kin, and pretty good friends. Now I don’t know how this happened, but they look to me when it’s time to have some fun as a family, although I am not an official “kid person”. I have no education, recreation or fitness degree. I can be impatient. I expect them to put away whatever they take out, not to mention put away the baby talk and the whining that can come along with being a kid. But they look up to me and I accept them as they are. I see them as our family’s seeds.
We go out together; to the beach, or the mall, or my back yard on Friday nights to make s’mores. We make costumes for Trick or Treating, and we color Easter Eggs. We celebrate birthdays and good report cards, and each one of them is clear that if they’re talking to me, I’m listening. They call me Shelly, my baby name, as their mothers do. And when I am with them I am most myself.
I picked up the littlest cousin on Sunday afternoon, just to hold her in my arms while she’s still small and willing. We were at the end of a major day in the life of our family. Easter Sunday is a huge one for us, and we did it, full blown. At last, we had hunted every egg, taken every photo, eaten until we were stuffed. The big kids had organized a playground game in the back yard, and I couldn’t run another step, so I took a break with the baby, leaning against the side of the house.
I rocked her for a second and said, “I’m going inside. Would you like to stay out here and play with the big kids, or would you like to come with me?” She watched the big ones cheating at Mother May I for a moment and said, “I would like to come with you.” I kissed her chocolate bunny sticky cheek, and headed for the house. But on the way there she leaned her head on my shoulder and whispered to me, “I like to go with you, Shelly. I love you, too.”
That is the answer to everything.
I do it; the endless hustle of family life, because they love me. They love me for listening to them, and correcting them when they’re wrong. They also love me because I keep gum in my purse, just waiting for the moment I see them. Forget the concept that they are our seeds. Never mind that my tireless father planned outings like camping, ski trips, swimming lessons, and sporting events so that we could grow into well rounded adults, and someone has to do it for the little ones now that he has passed on. Never mind my theories that children must be shaped into productive citizens and childhood is but preparation for contributing to the community in meaningful ways.
She loves me, too.