We took the kids on a carriage ride tonight. Carriage rides are pretty cool, even for grown ups, so the kids were really excited. This actually went a step further though – this carriage ride was with Santa Claus.

It was perfect. We went to the square in downtown Springfield. They have lights up everywhere and a gigantic Christmas tree all lit up. The kids were running around, looking at the tree, climbing into/under the tree, just having a blast and then we begin to hear jingle bells. We look down the street and here comes two beautiful, big, black horses pulling a wonderful white carriage – and Santa was driving! He pulls into the square and rides right in front of us over to the corner and stops.

We follow him as fast as their little legs would go and then, we are right there in front of Santa himself. Big grins, little giggles, and then the nervousness begins to appear. Grace starts looking at everyone from the top of her eyes, little chin tucked down. Still smiling, definitely happy to be there, but making herself a tiny package. Elijah – Elijah seems to grow larger in front of our eyes. Big smiles, lots of questions, in charge. And once again I am amazed at these two individuals we are raising. These two distinct people with their own take on the world.

There is a part of me that longs for Grace to break free and be confidant – well, rather to look confidant. You see, she is confidant – but she is also very introspective. I’ve no doubt she knows every single word that was said during that ride. She could give us a hundred details. My girl is an observer – and a very good one. Elijah on the other hand – he experiences things. His memory would have less detail but much more emotion.

One of the thousands of reasons that I’m happy to be an older parent is that I’m much more comfortable just letting them be who they are. I think, if I had been a mother in my twenties, I would have had a harder time just letting them be – I would have wanted to jump in there and make them be like I thought they should be. I wouldn’t have understood how broad the spectrum is of what works in this world. Lots of ways work that are not my ways. I’m much more cognizant of that.

That’s not to say that I don’t try and draw Grace out some, or try to contain Elijah some. I do. I want to encourage them to try new things and to be brave. I even want them to fail, so they know they can survive failure. But mostly I want to contain myself, sit back, and let them experience things the way they want to and need to. I want to be there to wink at Grace when she peeks at Santa and then over to me. I love the smile I get from her – that smile says, “Thanks for being right there, no closer and no further away.” I like being her safe harbor. I love Elijah’s looks too – those looks that say, “Thanks for letting me push just far enough.” I am his safe harbor too – even if he doesn’t realize that’s what he is looking for when he looks at me with that adventurous gleam in his eye.

On the way to the carriage ride, Grace was asking about ice skating and if there was a place we could try to skate. I told her I wasn’t sure, to ask her Dad because he knows everything. She replied, “Oh, yes. He is the Great Knower of Things.” I chuckled and said, “Yes – he is.” And then my sensitive girl said, “Mommy, you know things, too. You know things and daddy knows things.” “Thanks, sweetie,” I replied.

It was one of those moments when you just think, “Who is this magnificent being and why was I chosen to lead her through this life?” Those moments sneak up on you like that. You think you’re talking about ice skating and all of a sudden they are revealing who they are to you. Who they are becoming.

I am so very thankful to parent them. I am so very thankful for this magical season that we get to enjoy. I am so thankful.

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