I'm sitting here typing this post on my laptop while sipping some coffee in our timeshare condo in Fraser, Colorado. I'm watching the kids scurry around. All 5 of them—our 3 and my sister Michelle's 2. The kids are having a great time. Sam (3) and Gavin (6) are playing "swords" with some sticks they found behind the building and are just now transitioning into filling up water balloons. They run through the condo brandishing their sticks at one another and swiping and poking them at each other just missing by mere inches much to the fear of the adults. So far no eyes or limbs have been lost. So far.
As I sit here thinking and typing my thoughts are of my daughter Grace (5). She is my beautiful baby girl. But I am beginning to notice she is not so baby like anymore. She came out of the bedroom this morning after breakfast having totally dressed herself—a mismatching though colorful arrangement if I've ever seen one). She also enthusiastically helped me crack the eggs for breakfast. I fished out a few shell chips but she did remarkably well. I am so proud of her. These past few days have furthered my worst fears that she is really growing up.
We brought the kids bikes up this week and before we left I took her training wheels off. She passionately asked me yesterday if I would help her learn how to ride her bike. I reluctantly worked up the energy enough to slip on my shoes and get ready to run behind my daughter, preparing to catch her at every wrong turn. She put her helmet on, hopped on her bike and with a release of my steadying hand she was off! And immediately sharply overcorrected and ended up in a tangled mess of metal and skin on the ground. After a hardy slap on the back and some reassuring she was off again with renewed determination. And then... something wonderful happened. She was riding—BY HERSELF! Yes, wobbly, yes, shaky but riding by herself. All the way as I was running after her she was yelling, "Daddy, don't let go of me!"
And at that very moment I realized that in a small way, almost imperceptibly, I was letting go. Before my very eyes I had witnessed her grow up and rely on herself a little more and on me a little less. I must say it was thrilling and strangely sad at the same time. I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about it right now. What is it in me that wants my kids to grow up but at the same time doesn't want to see it actually happen or not as fast as it sometimes seems to?
As if learning to ride her bike was not enough, last night Grace (and Sam) also went Mutton Bustin' last night at the Fraser Rodeo. What is Mutton Bustin'? You throw a scared stiff 40 lb. kid on the back of an equally scared 75 lb. sheep in front of a large crowd under white hot arena lights and then give the sheep a healthy smack on the butt. What happens? Well, usually the kid flies off in 2.3 seconds and ends in a cloud of dust as the sheep runs for his life.
And that is pretty much what happened to Sam and Grace. Grace a little better, Sam a little worse. I was hoping Katie would hide the inevitable from the kids until the very last moment but, no, she decided to lift them up each in turn and show them a sneak preview of what was to come. Each sobered up watching kid after cling for dear life only to be jettisioned from the sheep like a leaf in a stiff breeze and stand up with tears and a mouth full of dirt as the crowd applauded.
This was it, Grace was up. The announcer called her name, 2 tough cowboys placed her on the back of the sheep and off she went. The crowd roared, the sheep bucked... Grace was tossed like a rag doll. She jumped to her feet unsure wether she should cry or laugh and headed towards the lady holding her ribbon. She had done it. She had conquered the sheep and her fears with all the courage a 5 year-old could muster. I was so proud of her and gave her a huge hug.