Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Editor’s Voice

:: EDITORIAL AND PHOTOS BY LEIGH RIPLEY ::

For the past year I have been helping out a friend by watching her daughter occasionally. Dot will be 2 in March, and watching her grow and blossom into the super cool kid she is becoming has been an amazing gift. It has also been a priceless glimpse into the past of my own three girls.

Ages 10, 12 and 15, my kids have long since lost their baby chub, funny mispronunciations, the strong desire to be held all the time and the need for a hand on stairs. They can feed themselves, dress themselves and one even drives. Sure, they love me, but their survival no longer depends on me.

When I’m with Dot I am reminded of so many precious moments I had forgotten from those baby and toddler days... Dot has dolls and stuffed animals that she likes put to sleep with crushing suffocation by shoving blankets down on their faces. All three of my girls did this and I can’t help but giggle when Dot does it.

Dot likes to carry around a small stuffed kitty. She snuggles it on the couch when we read and props it up nearby when she’s playing. My 12-year-old had two small stuffed kitties at that age that she didn’t just drag around, she wore them like a mother kangaroo – in her shirt or the bib of her overalls.

Dot has a large yellow lab that licks her face...and she loves it, squealing with delight every time. I remember when my girls would literally dog pile our golden retriever and enjoy the same, wet affection.

Dot says a handful of words; one of which is “MINE.” There is no need to elaborate here. This should remind everyone of their own children.

Watching the gears of her mind spin as she does puzzles is fascinating. The learning is so rapid and her mind is so eager. Remember those days? When every day offered the gift of learning something new – so many new things that we parents documented each one in baby books and journals.

Some of the things I see in Dot are things I see in my own kids today, like unexplained crying, random outbursts of anger and frustration and the sassy side-eye. That’s called hormones, though.

But most of things I see in my girls are different now: It’s not crayon on the walls anymore, it’s nail polish on the couch. They still want to be held...but by best friends – and BOYS! Misunderstood childhood words have been replaced with slang and emojies, equally incomprehensible. And I still battle with making everyone happy at dinnertime.

But, like I said, my days with Dot bring me back to those pudgy, sticky hands, the sweet innocent wonder in their eyes and what if felt like to be 100 percent needed.

Enjoy these years with your little cherubs. If you compare your toddler with the infant she just was, she may seem so big to you but just wait...they keep getting bigger. And before you know it, you’ll be sitting where I am right now, weighing the Terrible Twos versus the Terrible Teens.