When Your "Kid" Lives Next Door

The last official thing I did when I turned 18 was to give birth to my first daughter. Two days later I turned 19 in the hospital and they gave me a cupcake with a candle in it. It should be noted that I was encouraged to nurse my baby, but not allowed to unwrap her blanket and look at her. In those days it was against hospital law. To this day I can not tell you why that rule existed but I can tell you that I could hardly wait to get home to see the person who'd been kicking me. I never thought she'd live next door.

If you do the math, you'll know that if I'm 70 years-old, the baby is over 50 but heaven forbid I should divulge her age. Heh, heh.

Two years and a few weeks later, I went to that same hospital in Corvallis and had another baby. Amazing how that works. This little girl was so much different than her sister. She arrived alternating between screaming and sucking her thumb. I laughed because I knew I was in big trouble with this redhead. I also knew at that moment that my daughters were polar opposites and I was glad because I also knew that parenting would be a real merry-go-'round.

As it turns out, I was right. Their dad was as mystified as I was about the differences between them but he was much better at not taking anything personally. Of course, I blamed myself every time one of them cried because I thought I had surely done something to cause it. This is not a good start in the parenting journey. Looking back, it is kind of funny though. This mom has come a long way. During his short life, their dad did too. He never lost sight of the differences between his two girls.

Just after our first daughter was born, he came home from work and found me on the couch sobbing. I explained that the baby had been crying all afternoon and that I'd done everything I knew how to do. He said, "Not everything," took me by the hand and walked me out the front door and around our property. Of course, I worried about the baby and he said, "She'll be fine, it's you that has a problem." We laughed and walked until the crying stopped. Then he went to make sure she was OK.

Later, when our second daughter was born, he was a rock. He actually recorded her screaming fits and played them back for her. He was fascinated by her temper and I have a hunch he saw himself in it... minus the red hair. We were in awe of that little girl who had so much spirit and she's that way up to this day. The difference is that she no longer screams when she gets mad (at least in front of me!). She is kind and loving but you really don't want to get on that other side.

I know that parenting starts at pregnancy. It becomes very real when the baby is born. From that day forward it does not stop. No matter how old you are... if you have children, you will be parenting.

I have friends who have never had children but their parenting skills are above par. They can manage classrooms full of curious children without a pause. They adopt children and raise them to be wonderful people.

Me? I just wanted children and fell in love the first moment I saw them. I did my best as a person and a parent but that doesn't always mean I was a great parent. It means I tried to be great. Now that our oldest lives right next door, we get plenty of opportunity to hear stories of our lives together. Mr. S became the step-dad in 1981 and has become Dad and Grandfather for both of our girls, their children and friends through these years.

The neighbor lady is the elder who questioned each and every one of our parenting decisions. She was the one who kept us on our toes... the one who challenged us and along with her sister, made us better parents. That teaching applied to our grandsons, who were too much fun. The best days of our lives.

Our youngest daughter is still opinionated and funny. She lives in Albany, which is too far away. I used to think that you should live away from your kids. I've changed my mind. We need a family compound here. Why? When you get your kids, you get their kids and all of their friends, too. It's the family you've built all during these years and forgot. Bring them home.

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