When did my children grow up?

Some days, we all just need a smile. Today, my intent is to give you one.

I recently finished a good book I’d been reading at bedtime to help me unwind. I wanted something else to read and didn’t have any books on hand that captured my interest. Something told me to reach for my old journals. It proved to be the wrong thing to do, because I ended up wide awake, wishing we could do it all again.

When my son was 2, he was talking very clearly in complete sentences and keeping us all on our toes. I was exhausted much of the time, awaiting the birth of our second baby. Doug had told me to go rest, locking the door so our little boy wouldn’t come in.

As I was trying to get comfortable, Cort comes knocking on the door. “Mommy! I want in!” I just remained quiet, hoping he would give up. After much more pounding, he says, “Hey! I want my money back!”

Another evening, his Daddy out hunting, Cort leaned heavily against me and the baby let out a solid kick. Startled, he said, “My belly don’t do that! Not nice!”

Little helper

When our beautiful baby girl arrived, Cort wanted to be my helper in the worst way. When I asked him to put a pillowcase in the washer, he flushed it down the toilet. When I asked him to put a couple of his clean shirts in his dresser, he pulled all the rest of his clothes out, flinging them in to a mess, and then put his two little shirts in the drawer, nice and neat.

Cort spent a lot of time with my dad, who the grandchildren all referred to as Ni Ni, riding in the tractor cab, the combine or just walking the fields. One morning, when I told him we would be staying home all day, he picked up the phone, had a long imaginary conversation, then said, “NiNi needs me now.” He then leaned against the wall near the phone, crossing his arms as he had seen his father do, and said, “Nice guy, Mommy, nice guy. Gotta go help!”

New sister

Caroline was a tiny, precious baby, always happy. At 6 months, she would laugh and giggle when her brother talked to her. “She LIKES me!” he said. Her first word, on Mother’s Day morning, was “Mama.” She happily entertained herself, and was on the go the minute she learned how to crawl.

Both kids loved to be outdoors, and one spring morning, I bundled them up and took them for a little wagon ride. A farmer stopped to comment on the weather, and had a smudge of dirt on his cheek, his farm hat dark with soot. While baby Caroline smiled and waved, Cort was uncharacteristically quiet. Suddenly, Cort shouted, “Mommy, that man looks like a dirty cookie!” I wanted to crawl in a hole.

Quite often I would take my children to visit my grandfather in a nursing home. One day, Cort balked, refusing to put his coat on. “Why don’t you want to go see Grandpa? Tell me.” He stomped and stalled, then looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, “He’s dying right before our eyes.”

High praise

One day, Cort told my parents, “My dad’s a great guy. He goes to work!”

I was often helping with the evening milking while Dad was in the fields. When I returned home, took a shower and started supper, Cort said, “So, Mom. How ya been?” Later that night, he hugged both his father and me and said, “Ahhh, I love you guys. You’re swell together!”

Digging a few holes to plant flowers, Doug turned up some earthworms. “Get the fishin’ pole!” Cort shouted.

Friends gave my kids barbershop quartet hats and a tiny plastic cane. Cort immediately broke in to song and dance, kicking high, his arms thrown wide, performing dramatically. Caroline kept taking her hat off and looking inside. Finally, she said, “Mommy. My hat not work!”

That boy still loves to fish, he still talks to total strangers as old friends and still surprises me with his insight. Our daughter remains sweet, precious, happy, always on the go. Both find reward in hard work, and both have made us proud.

And both, it seems, grew up in the blink of an eye.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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