“Let me carry you,” I told my 11-year-old daughter. She was sick again. I needed her to get up, and she wanted to stay in bed. I hoped the novelty and ease of being carried to the family room would wake her gently.
She got up on her knees on top of her bed, and rested her head on my shoulder, drooping her lanky arms down my back. I carried her easily into the front room. She’s not heavy.
We both giggled. “It’s been a long time since I last carried you,” I said. I don’t even remember when she last refused to use her legs. It was probably coming in from the car after a late night out. Last summer? The summer before?
Years ago, I engaged in conversations with other moms about how long we should carry our kids. Some people felt there is a cutoff when the child became “too old.” Others loved hauling around their offspring, and made promises to as long as they could. I fell somewhere in the middle, not one for hard rules, and fond of the “never say never” approach.
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I recall being carried myself. I loved wobbling on my dad’s shoulders at amusement parks or at the zoo, trying to somehow grip his sweaty, bald head. I even remember trying to sit on top of his head. I felt loved and pampered, and he never complained until his neck ached.
And so I took the approach that if my kids wanted to be carried, and if I could, I’d try, at least for a while. My son loved to be carried, and took full advantage of my willingness. Usually, far away from our destination, his legs would fail him, and he’d cling to me, a loud, wiggly bundle of weight, pulling my spine into an unnatural shape. I’d plod along under the load, the knowledge that I’d soon not be able to carry him again, given the weight of the boy in my arms.
The time I most remember carrying him was the next-to-last time I tried. He was way “too big” to be carried by any standard, but he’d fallen asleep in the car, and rather than waking him up, I lifted him and struggled toward the door. He began to slip, and I staggered under his weight as I began to lose my grip. Too heavy to set gently down, I felt myself going down as well, and we slowly settled to the pavement.
He looked at me, confused. “What are we doing?” he asked in astonishment, having awoken to find himself in a heap with me in the middle of the driveway. Tears rolled down my face from laughter.
I did carry him one more time, which I only remember because I remember thinking, “Ah, I can still carry him. So there!” But he’s now much taller than me, the opportunity has passed.
My daughter, however, hopped around as if she had springs in her feet, bouncing here and there with boundless energy.
Yet, I can still carry her. And though the occasion to carry her is rare, it’s still one I’ll seize. It’s not a matter of if she can walk herself. Of course she can. But my ability to carry my child is fleeting.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.