Stop Growing

Published in the Gazette June 16, 1998


           It’s summer in Iowa and it’s been raining for three weeks straight.  At least that’s the way it seems to a mother of two small boys.  One particular morning in June finds us standing in front of the big screen door, glumly watching rain bounce off the surface of our deck.  Suddenly one-year-old Eli begins to say “Ow!, ow!”  He wants to go out.  “O.K.,” says 3-year-old Robbie, ever the helpful big brother.  He begins to slide the door open.  I put an end to this potentially wet adventure by closing the door, which brings cries of frustration from both of them.  I manage to herd them to the basement to play.

            After an hour, we go back upstairs and I notice something:  it’s stopped raining.  I look again.  Yes, the rain has stopped.  “Hey guys, let’s put on our boots and go outside to splash in puddles!”  This suggestion brings cheers from Robbie.  Eli toddles toward the door.

            Of course, the boots are downstairs, the jackets are in the front closet, the house key is buried under stuff on my dresser.  I collect armfuls of gear while carrying Eli (in tears because he wants to go out NOW) and chase down Robbie to get him ready.  “Oops, the boots are on the wrong feet, sweetie.  Let’s take them off and try again.  Eli—no!  Mama’s keys don’t go in the kitty’s water!” 

            Finally we stand outside.  I am exhausted.  But we look around and breathe in the fresh, cool, humid air.  Eli taps a puddle with a booted foot.  Robbie stoops to pick clover from the edge of the lawn.

            And then I feel it.  A drop of rain.  Another.  Then another.  Soon it’s steady again and we’re getting sopped.  “Oh no, it’s raining again, guys.  We’d better head in.”  Wails of protest from both of them, and Robbie takes off across the front lawn.  I grab Eli and dash after Robbie in the steadily increasing rain.

            That night after they’re in bed, I collapse on the couch, zomboid after the day’s exertions.

            “It’ll be so much easier after they’re older,” my husband says.

            “Yeah,” I say.

            On TV, the weatherman is looking gloomy.  There are little icons of clouds all over his map.  “Looks like rain again tomorrow.  This weather’s taking a toll on Iowa farmers.”

            “The farmers?  It’s taking a toll on me!” I grumble.

            “The crops have been planted,” he continues, with a look of concern on his face.  “But the corn and soybeans have stopped growing.”

            “Did you hear that?”  I call to my husband, who’s emptying the dishwasher.  “The crops have stopped growing.”

            Suddenly I remember a conversation I had the other day with a mom of older children.  “Enjoy your kids while they’re little,” she said.  “Soon enough, they won’t want those snuggles.  Right now you’re the center of their world.  Sometimes I wish I could just keep them little forever.”

            On the dining room table I can see a paper cup full of clover—the ones Robbie picked for me on our brief excursion outside.  “Home for a Bunny,” one of my favorite picture books, lies on the the floor where I sat to read it to the boys.  On the coffee table is a drawing of a balloon with the word MMMOMM on it.

            When it’s time for bed, I head upstairs, brush my teeth and peek into my boys’ rooms, the usual ritual.  Surrounded by stuffed kitties, Eli clutches his blankie in his fist.  Robbie is sprawled on his back, one foot on top of the blanket, one foot underneath.

            “Stop growing,” I whisper, only partially glad it’s impossible.


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