I'm a pretty sentimental person, and I get a little melancholy at certain stages of the boys' lives, but for the most part, I revel in them growing up and becoming more independent - that's what's supposed to happen, after all, and it's a privilege to watch and be a part of it.
But then there are moments that their little incremental steps away from us suddenly become giant leaps, and it takes my breath away and brings a tear to my eye. And lately, it seems like there have been a lot of those moments.
Gabe is on the verge of honest-to-goodness teenage existence, and Dante is close behind. Carmine is still along way off from that, but is light years ahead of where Gabe and Dante were at age 4.5.
The changes aren't truly monumental ones, but as a mom who's kept these boys under nearly constant surveillance since the second they were born, they feel monumental. But they need to happen.
So when I picked them up from camp a few weeks ago, and Dante jumped up and started to run over to me, but then caught himself and sat back down and played it cool, I didn't take it personally.
And when I wanted to take a picture of Gabe the first day he had his braces on, and he said no, because he didn't want me to post it on Facebook, I completely understood and respected that request (one he's never, ever made before).
And when Gabe and Dante asked us the other day if they could go for a walk on the beach with their friend, we said yes. And when I was at the grocery story today with all three of them and Carmine needed to go to the bathroom, I asked Gabe to take him while Dante and I finished up the shopping. And when we forgot something from our locker up at the beach pavilion this morning, I gave Dante the key and asked him to go get it.
And as hard as it can be to just Let. Them. Go. and do these things on their own, it's also kind of liberating and rewarding.
Rewarding in the sense that although I constantly feel like I'm totally screwing this up, I'm doing enough right that I can trust my 10-year-old to take care of his little brother for a few minutes in a public place - and I can count on my 8-year-old to operate a key and door lock - and more importantly, remember to bring the key back! And I can give Gabe $10 and have him go get us a snack at the concession stand at the beach.
No, these are not complicated, enormous tasks, but believe me, there are moments in our everyday life where I doubt their abilities to do simple things like that, so it's gratifying to see that they are in fact completely capable.
And it's liberating - and somewhat exhilirating - to know that I can rely on them to DO STUFF for me! I don't always have to be the one to drag Carmine to the bathroom. I don't always have to be the one to go and get stuff for us. I don't have to be on top of them every single second.
I know the day will come that I will miss their noise and chaos at the beach, and that I'll wish they were sitting right beside me instead of off hanging out with their friends. But I also know that this is exactly what's supposed to be happening, and that (and the silence and the chance to sit and relax for a change, which, at the moment, I treasure) makes it easier.
They still need us - and they still let us know that on a very regular basis - but this newfound independence is a fascinating and beautiful and amazing thing, and as much as it makes me a bit sad, it also makes me incredibly proud.
Our job as parents is to send these little people off into the world to do their thing and make their mark, and it's exciting to see them beginning to embark on that journey, and to wonder where on earth it's going to end up.