It’s November. It’s November in New England. It’s winter coat weather.
Chickadee adores her bus driver, and with good reason; that woman is remarkable. You couldn’t pay me enough to get up early in the morning and drive around an entire busload of children. Half the time, I don’t want to cart around the two who share my DNA, so really, I don’t know where she gets her deep reserves of cheerfulness and goodwill, but I applaud her. The only downside to her great zeal for transporting our town’s youth is that Monday mornings just don’t come quickly enough for her liking. She is always early on Monday mornings.
Go ahead and take a guess which day of the week is the hardest one for us to get out the door on time. Go ahead! I’ll wait.
Our bus stop is about a block away, and on Monday mornings, we drive. Heck, most Monday mornings, I’m in the process of driving over there when the bus comes around the corner and I end up screeching to a halt to run Chickadee over to where the bus driver has stopped to wait for us. We run over and I shove her on the bus while panting, “Sorry! Thanks for stopping!” and all the kids on the bus point and laugh. It’s a delightful way to kick off the week.
Today, I was determined to get to the bus stop on time. And we did it! (Unfortunately, my fellow mothers were not quite so lucky. A mom from several streets over pulled up and hustled her child onto the bus, and after the bus pulled away someone else flagged it down before it turned back to the main road. Nice to know I’m not alone in my Mondayitis, at least.) I got everything and everyone packed and into the car and we made it to the bus stop with a minute or two to spare. Huzzah!
Given that we only drive a block, on a residential street with no traffic, I don’t insist that the children buckle up for our jaunt to the bus stop. In fact, I may or may not back the car out of the garage at 45 mph while hollering, “Don’t bother with your belts! No time! Must drive!” Part of my worry this morning–the first morning that the children have donned their winter coats–was that Monkey wasn’t actually going to fit under the 5-point harness on his carseat. So we jetted to the neighbors, packed Chickadee into the bus, and then I tried to buckle him in to continue on our way to his school.
That’s when things got ugly with Monkey. It pains me to use “ugly” and “Monkey” in the same sentence, because he is perhaps the most gorgeous boy-child ever to walk the face of the earth (based on my completely unbiased opinion, of course, and those big green eyes). But Monkey’s new winter jacket is warm and fluffy and wonderful, and also transforms him into the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Monkey in a way that is nothing short of alarming.
Parents of little ones are familiar with the 5-point harness: two straps come over the shoulders, buckle in a plastic clip at chest-height, and then two smaller clips hook into the strap that comes up between the legs. If I pulled one strap over his shoulder, by the time I got the second one situated, the first one had sunk and disappeared in his lovely fluffy jacket. When I got the chest clip fastened, Monkey started making elaborate choking and gagging sounds while I tried to figure out where the clips for the crotch buckle had gone. (How many google hits do you suppose I will get for “crotch buckle” now? Ewwww.) I took him out of the seat and tried to loosen the straps to no avail. (The straps on Monkey’s seat are adjustable… as long as you don’t actually have the seat correctly buckled into your car. Once situated, the adjustable straps no longer adjust. Gah.)
Meanwhile, Monkey was entertaining himself by beating his chest and otherwise poking at his coat to see how fluffy he could make it and then how quickly he could squish it down again. If that jacket were white he totally could’ve gone on a city-wide rampage, all cute and adorable yet huge and frightening all at once!
I finally gave up. “Monkey,” I said, “go sit in Chickadee’s seat.” Chickadee sits in a belt-positioning booster that uses the regular (adjustable!) car seat belt. He sat down and I buckled him right in, no problems. A huge grin broke over his face.
“I’m ridin’ in Chickie’s seat all the way to school? Really, Mama? REALLY?”
I found his excitement hilarious. I mean… hello… it’s a seat and a seatbelt. The big deal is…? But as we drove I began to see that a whole new world had opened up to him and he must’ve felt like he’d won the lottery.
“This not squishing me AT ALL, Mama!” “Hey, I can turn around and look out the BACK! I’m not stuck!” “If it gets a little too tight, I just pull it like this and it’s fine!” “I am just like a big kid, sitting here like this!”
He raved and gushed all the way to school. Part of it was the novelty, sure. And another part may have even been the thrill of being king-for-a-day (king-for-a-drive?) when used to being ruled by a tempermental princess. But a large part of it was just Monkey’s special kind of joy at being big enough, a goal he spends much of his time pursuing.
“Good morning, Monkey,” called out one of the teachers as we walked into the classroom.
“My coat is so puffy!” he answered happily. “I had to ride in my sister’s seat! It was SO FUN!”
Monkey is nearly five years old, and around 38 pounds. Legally you can move a child to the regular car seatbelt (with a booster seat, please) once they reach 4 years or 30 pounds, whichever comes last. The seat he’s in now allows the 5-point harness until 40 pounds, and I was trying to get him there before switching him to a belt-positioning booster. I’ve always reasoned that he’s small for his age, and he’s better protected in the 5-point harness.
But today was eye-opening for me. Monkey is my baby. I try not to treat him like a baby, but, did I mention that HE’S MY BABY? He’s my last baby. I will never have another. Chickadee has been such a mini-adult her entire life; I was thrilled when Monkey came along, all cuddles and goofiness and childishness. I needed a little reminder that he’s going to grow up whether I want him to or not, and it’s okay, and he’s still my baby even though he really isn’t a baby anymore. He’s old enough and big enough for a booster seat. So I came home and put the other booster seat in the car for him, and put away the old seat.
It’s bittersweet. Of course, I must confess that my epiphany may have been spurred along just a little by the realization that I wasn’t sure I could take another winter of buckling in and out over the puffy jacket….