How much do I love Kentucky? Let me count the ways, and a big reason is because of all the little munchkins who I love who are being raised by the people I love in the town I love.
Which is why it’s perfectly normal to me that there’s no such thing as sleeping in on my Kentucky vacations, not when 2-year-old little feet are pitter-pattering outside the bedroom door, and little hands knock, and excited voices call my name while their mother’s “shhhhhh”quickly follows.
And it’s also why I’m able to hone my conversation-navigating skills when surrounded by toddlers and kids. It’s like playing a game of dodge ball.
“So I think that I’m..”
“…finally at a place…”
“No, you’re fine.”
“Baby, what do you need?”
“Yes, you see the cows?”
“Do cows eat hay?”
“What else eats hat? Do horses eat hay?”
“Yes, they do, you silly boy!” (I’m involved in the conversation now)
And when it’s a conversation that us adults are doggone determined to have, our voices raise octaves above the kids’ until we realize we’re yelling in the pizza parlor and the kids now think it’s a contest. It’s not so much that it’s important stuff (I was talking about my finds at a yard sale, and another adult was telling me about the shoes she bought that day), it’s that these are the two seconds we have to catch up after the spaghetti’s been cut and the cheese pizza’s been snagged from the heating rack.
Until and unless you’ve been around kids (A LOT), you might not realize this, but they’re a demanding bunch of critters. Especially when you get more than one in a room, or at a table. And that’s when you see a bunch of adults talk really loud and declare martial law at the dinner table. You’ll hear things like, “Because I said so,” and basically that means there’s no good reason for the rule, but for the love of peace and all things orderly, sit down and keep your hands to yourself.
Watching my friends parent is like watching a gardener and a circus ringmaster. The seeming chaos is organized somehow to produce lopsided balance, and the minute-by-minute toil it takes to raise kids who are smart, conscientous and obedient is messy business. Exhausting, really. I get tired just watching and hearken back to my nanny days when I was joining them in the parenting fray, including sleepless nights, potty training accidents at the playground and shenanigans at the table.
But it's paying off, all the interruptions and the not-being-able-to-pee-by-themselves, and the arguments and fusses, the laying down the law and the pleading to just listen.
I know it's paying off because my friends have great kids - the kind you want to be with. The kind who I vacation to see and the kind who I don't mind being woken up at 7 a.m. to visit with. The kind who joke, the kind who are bossy and the kind who remember me. The kind who want me to babysit them and the kind who are sad when I leave. The kind who let me tuck them in bed and the kind who say they're sorry when they hit me on the foot with a hammer.
So, what I was saying wasn't all that important in the grand scheme of things, in the moment when a conversation about hay and cows needed to happen. And of course I'll comfort you when your fearless self decides to leap off the playground equipment, and when you want to tell me all about your ballet recital, I'll listen. When it comes time to sing songs before bed, I will, and I'll always sit with you in your chair to read a tractor book as many times as you want. I'll change your diapers and put your PJs on, I'll give you a bath and drop you off at daycare. I'll play peek-a-boo with you behind the pillow and when you're ready to get out of bed but your mom isn't, I'll break you free. I'll always tell you your Elmo drawing is spectacular, and when you tell me there's a bug on my shirt and I freak out and you laugh, I'll laugh too. I'll look at your yearbook and listen to you explain who I'm seeing and who you want to be your first grade teacher. I'll take your tour of your house because though you remember me, you don't remember I know your house. I'll kiss your bald head and I'll always tell you to listen to mommy and daddy.
And, of course, I'll always love you, my Kentucky kids.