I cannot tell you exactly when the shift happened. There wasn’t a watershed moment or anything. At least not one that I remember.
During the first few months of my daughter’s life, it was almost like we were walking around in Hazmat suits. People had to pour Purell on their hands whenever they touched her. Our dogs were like a badgering ex-boyfriend given a restraining order – allowed close enough to see what’s going on, but still not given permission to go anywhere near her. We swathed her hands with wipes before and after meals. Cleaned off the high chair tray, too. And God forbid she drop a pacifier on the ground. It was like a Code Red alert and we could only pick it up with a pair of tongs before dropping it into a pot of boiling water.
Lately, though, my kid might as well eat a pile of dirt. It would probably be met with a shrug.
Old ladies walking around the grocery store reach out to touch my daughter and we no longer recoil in germ horror. Our dogs lick her when she walks around. On the mouth sometimes. She’s constantly putting her hands wherever she can as she explores the house as a bi-pedaled human. And then she taste-tests whatever she has in her hands.
Our response? Eh.
Last week at breakfast she dropped her pacifier on the ground. We just dipped it into a now-ordered third water glass and plopped it back into her mouth. It’s like we are already prepping her for beer pong once she heads off to college.
Soon enough she’s going to be walking around our backyard and playing in the mud, playing ball with the dogs and surviving a day without any wardrobe changes, but with plenty of stains.
I just don’t get when our mindset – as parents – changed from Mr. Clean to Pigpen. Was it when she went to daycare? Was it because Purell is expensive? Was it because our dogs tore up the restraining order?
Obviously this happens at some point with every parent, or else we’d all be living in bubbles like giant hamsters. But I’m a moment guy. I remember the moment I met my wife, and the moment I asked her to marry me. I remember the moment that baseball became my favorite sport. I remember the moment I stormed a basketball court as a fan. I remember several heartbreak moments and several victorious moments.
Yet, I cannot remember the moment I finally let my kid get just a little outside of the previously created bubble.
But isn’t that what being a parent is about? You try and create a safety net and then little by little, you pull it back and let the child grow on their own?
So maybe there doesn’t need to be an exact moment. Maybe it’s a series of moments that just leads to your kid growing up. And one day, that bubble is gone and then it becomes a moment.