Most mornings Parker wakes up at the sound of my laptop opening. He flops into the living room bleary eyed and I close my laptop before it gets a chance to buzz alive. I tug him close as he changes the channel from Good Morning America to the one full of superhero names I can’t remember. After he wakes up a little and I can’t sit still any longer, I get his breakfast. I grab his bowl and spoon and pour the Cheerios and the milk until they hit the spot on the bowl’s rim he decides is enough and he eats at our coffee table while I creak open the laptop again.
I’m sure there’s an expert on raising independent children who would love to tsk me for this ritual, making cereal for a boy who’s more than capable of doing it himself. But I like doing something just for him in the hours before everyone else pulls me everywhere else.
This morning I asked him what he will do when he’s older, when his mom isn’t there to pour his cereal and milk just right, hand him the sugar bowl and spoon. He told me I can come visit, “you can refill my sugar bowl when it gets empty Mom” he said, shaking his hair back over his brows as soon as I brushed it away from his eyes.
I pictured myself, old, forgetting even more than I do now, heading to his house to fill his sugar bowl every week, my new daughter-in-law thinking me insane. And him answering the door, holding out the empty bowl for me to fill, not thinking there’s a crazy thing about this arrangement because I’ve read “Love You Forever” to him enough times that he knows it could be worse. Then I see me driving away fully satisfied with the way I’ve cemented myself into his life, knowing full well his wife is trying to tell him they can actually buy their own sugar at the store but he’s waving her away all the same because he loves his mama.
My kids have grown past the baby and toddler stage and I’m not the hand over hand caretaker anymore. I’m the checker-inner, the tall glass pourer, the enforcer of face washing and bedtimes and memorizing the planets. I imagine as they head closer to their teens I’ll be sidelined even more, dropping off and picking up and reminding them about coats and seeing the floor of their bedrooms once in a while, inching my way into their lives when I can.
I don’t wish them little as much as I used to because it’s the coming back I love. They drift further but they always drift back. They ride their bikes from corner to corner and ditch me at the park but they come back for long stories and band-aids and the definitions of big words.
I love being their constant, the place they come back to when they’ve waded far enough. I like to think they’ll always come back to me when their sugar bowl is empty, whether it’s for love or reassurance or because they really truly are out of sugar. I’ll be here, no matter how far they’ve gone, ready to dish out whatever it is they need.
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