There’s a sweetness to watching daughters grow up. We’ve seen more than our share of pink and flowery dresses and nail polish, but even more dirt and creek water and critters. There’s been an awful lot of awful, but even more wonderful. The 3 of them are responsible for making me half crazy. Paul accounts for roughly 40% on his own. The rest I blame on genetics. You know what I’m talking about!
It’s beach week for the Mauks. We usually allow either Grace OR Lauren to bring a friend each summer. This year, we decided to let all 3 bring someone. So here we are…Paul, Sandie, Grace, Sarah, Lauren, Zoey, Oh Emily, and Ava. On a separate, unrelated note, this is the first year Paul has brought his golf clubs to the beach in over a decade. So far, it really has been so much easier having a partner for each of our girls. But Paul and I are the outsiders, and we aren’t allowed into their inside jokes, because…ya know. But really, we get the jokes. We just play dumb, then Paul turns up the volume on the Sirius radio in the sexy minivan and jams out to his 80’s and 90’s music. Funky Cold Medina y’all!
Grace and Sara, henceforth referred to as The Teens because it politically incorrect to call them the The Bigs, have spent their evenings hanging out at the Strip. I don’t like to say teens and strip in the same sentence, because…ya know. Monday night, Grace went with a laid-back, casual look of shorts, Daddy’s tanktop, her wig, and a black bandana. Sara glammed it with a flowy maxi dress. I love how these new friends fit together without having to be carbon copies.
When Grace and Sarah went out Sunday evening, I wasn’t worried at first. They are good girls. Believe me, after last summer, hard conversations, confessions, and painful unveilings, I know Grace’s demons. I’m less worried about Grace acting a fool when she’s away from me and more worried about Grace’s secret anxieties trying to sabotage her mind when she is right inside my house. That’s part of my half crazy. But I group texted Grace and Sarah just to touch base. No response. I texted just Grace. No response. Just Sarah. No response. I called Grace. Then Sarah. Then Grace again. No response. No response. No response. I wasn’t worried that they were being foolish, but what if someone else was being foolish with them? How in the world is Paul sleeping through this when The Teens aren’t answering their texts and phone calls?! Uugghh! Somehow The Teens survived the Strip, and they told me they just didn’t hear my obsessive texts and calls. I told them to be mindful of their phones and to please check in with me when going out again the next night. I left them alone Monday evening, and they texted me twice.
Yesterday after the beach and the water park, after shopping for a new bikini for Lauren, walking around Broadway, eating at Joe’s Crab Shack, taking the girls to the Aquarium, and chocolate ice cream, of course they wanted to do some beach after dark. Momma was tired and Daddy wasn’t far behind. But we went. Of course we went. Paul and I sat on towels and stared out into the waves. Oh Emily and Ava, henceforth referred to as The Littles, looked for crabs, splashed the waves, looked for seashells, and did handstands. Lauren and Zoey, referred to as The Middles or The Tweens depending on attitude, made fast friends with some other kids playing volley ball and soccer.
This is a snapshot of parenting right now for Paul and me. Different stages, different likes and dislikes, different responsibilities and privileges. We have different leashes on the girls because they need us so differently. We’ve never been helicopter parents, and yes we’ve made mistakes. But we won’t hover and micromanage (ok it was too much maybe Sunday night with the texts and calls). They’ve learned independence and they know who cheers for them, as Paul said at Grace’s graduation party.
But here we sit in the dark in the sand. Staring at The Littles a few yards right in front of us. Close enough to grab them out of the surf if necessary. And The Middles somewhere behind our backs kicking a ball with new friends. Far enough away to look cool, and close enough to behave. And The Teens several miles away doing their own thing, reaching out to “Momma Mauk” (as Sarah called me) because they know I worry.
We’re trying to help them make smart decisions while we are here. But we still want them to have fun. They have their own money, and I’m vetoing crazy purchases like the $60 stuffed turtle (I’m looking at you Zoey). And Ava was doing her own math right in the gift shop when she spread her dollars right out on the floor so she could count them better. “5, 6, 7, 8 and if these slimes cost $7, I’ll get $1 back.” And Sarah keeps trying to pay and Paul hasn’t let her.
We let the leashes out a little farther with each pair of girls. They tug against us, and we’ve called them back a few times. Our leashes are the longest they’ve ever been. I’m laying out at the water park watching parents of young children hold their kids’ hands in the splash park. If they barely let go for even a second, down the toddler drops. That was fun for a season, but I’m over that now. Grandkids someday. Today I’ll take The Teens, The Middles, and The Littles (who aren’t so little). This just feels right because it’s where God brought us for now.
We’ve had Annemarie join us. Smiley Carly. Kenzie twice. And Jayden. Now Sarah, Zoey, and Ava. I think they’ve all known that we love them like they are ours. It’s a big deal to us that we get them for a whole week. Thank you parents for trusting us with them. They’ve been great.