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Feb 12

Trip to the mall

We have a tradition in our family – the birthday girl/boy gets to choose the restaurant for the birthday dinner.  For the past several years, Jessie has chosen the food court at the mall as her favorite restaurant.  Neither Marc nor I like to shop, and it’s not unusual for months to go by and we don’t ever go to the mall.

Jessie adores the mall.  Any mall, really.  She’s not picky, she loves every little bit of every mall she’s ever been to.  She likes the free samples handed out in the food court, the different perfumes that she can smell and experiment with.  She likes to buy headbands and hair bows, and shop for pretty dresses and new shoes.  I think she just likes the energy of being “at the mall.”   Her birthday was last Friday, and Friday night, we all went to the Auburn Mall.

We picked up my oldest stepdaughter Lilli on the way, and got to the mall around five-ish.  My younger stepdaughter, Sarah, had dance class and met us there around seven with my in-laws.  For the first hour and a half, we split up.  Marc took the two older girls and walked around the mall and I took the two little ones to the play area with a book.

And it was delightful.  Marc had the BEST time, walking around with his girls.  Carrying their bags and watching them shop together.  Kids grow up all the time, but every now and again, you realize that they’ve grown up – a lot – when you weren’t really paying attention.  Last year, we also went to the mall for Jessie’s birthday, and my dominant memory is of taking all five kids on the carosel at the Solomon Pond Mall.   This year, Lilli and Jessie shopped.  Independently.  Marc was there, but he wasn’t necessary, they didn’t need supervision.  They’re old enough to go to the mall.

Meanwhile, I got the little ones.  The ones who are decidedly not big enough to wander around independently.  What they are, though, is best friends and perfect playmates.  Julie is almost four and Sam is seven, and they play together so well.   They spent the entire time rolling and climbing and jumping around the little play area.  I sat in the corner with my book, and had the nicest little break.

We all had dinner, once Sarah and my in-laws got there.  The older kids mostly got chinese (I think Lilli got pizza – and Sam and Sarah ended up finishing it for her).  Julie had chicken nuggets and sat right beside me at the adult table, we put the four older kids at one of those big tall tables.  Then we got them all frozen yogurt.

It wasn’t so much what we did, as how we did it. How they’ve all grown up, so fast.  It really wasn’t that long ago that we were toting around two diaper bags, because both Jessie and Sarah weren’t potty trained, pushing a big double stroller packed with girls and sippie cups and special blankets.  Then we had Sam, constantly in the sling because he hated the carriage, and by the time he was mobile, we were still pushing a carriage just to carry all the STUFF.  This time, we had no stuff.  I had my pocketbook, but that was it.  No diaper bag, no sippie cups.  And the girls were perfectly capable of being without us, there was little “parenting” that they needed.  We didn’t need to remind anyone to use a napkin, or to stop crawling under the table during dinner.

I thought I’d be more wistful, and I am.  But mostly – I love having big kids.  I love how EASY everything is now, and how comfortable and relaxed we all are with each other.  I love the dynamic between my Jessie and her big sisters – because she’s very much the little one in that trio, and they adore her.  I love how Sam and Julie form their own unit, but easily go back and forth between that and the larger one of all five kids.  I love how delighted Marc was at how much he enjoyed shopping with his daughters, and how grateful I am, for the way we all are together.

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