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Stop Growing


Published in the Gazette June 16, 1998


It’s June in Iowa and it’s been raining for three weeks straight, or at least it seems that way to a mother of two small boys.  On one particular June morning, we stand in front of the sliding screen door, glumly watching the rain bounce off the surface of the deck until Eli begins to say “Up, Up.”  He wants to go outside.  I have to close the screen door, which brings screams of frustration, and we head downstairs to play.

After an hour, we head upstairs and I notice something.  It’s stopped raining.  I look again.  Yes, the rain has stopped. 

“Hey guys, it stopped raining.  Let’s put on our boots and go outside to splash in puddles!”  This suggestion brings cheers from Robbie; Eli heads for the back door. 

Of course the boots are downstairs, the jackets are in the front closet, the house key’s somewhere buried on my dresser.  I collect armfuls of gear while carrying Eli (who is in tears of rage at not being able to head outside NOW) and chase down Robbie to get him ready.  (“Oops, the boots are on the wrong feet.  Let’s take them off and try again.  Eli--no!  Mama’s keys do not go in the kitty’s water.”)

Finally we stand outside.  I am exhausted.  We look around and breathe in the fresh, cool, humid air.  Eli heads down the driveway; 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.

“Hey guys, it’s raining again.  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 him in the steadily increasing rain.

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

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

“Yeah,”I say.

On the TV, the weatherman is looking glum.  There are little pictures 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 are in,” he continues, with a look of concern on his face.  “But the corn and soybeans have just stopped growing.”

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

Suddenly I’m reminded of a conversation I’d had with my children’s babysitter.

“I love having Eli here,” she told me one morning.  “He lets me snuggle him.  Adrienne won’t let me anymore.”  She looked at her youngest daughter, only 4 months older than Eli.  “She wants to be independent, a big girl.  And my other two . . .” Kim rolls her eyes. 

“You should enjoy your kids at this age, when you’re the center of their world.  Too bad we can’t just keep them at this age 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 children’s books, lies open on the floor where I was reading it to Robbie and Eli.  On the coffeetable is a drawing of a balloon (by Robbie) with the word MMMMOMMM on it.  (“It’s for your office.”)

When it’s time for bed, I head upstairs, brush my teeth and go to 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 softly, only partially glad it’s impossible.