By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

There’s nothing like a kid who can buckle his own seat belt.

Two years ago when I had an infant and a toddler, leaving the house was a project.  The diaper bag was full of diapers, wipes, diaper cream, changes of clothes (because you knew the baby would inevitably poop through at least two outfits), toys, and snacks (there are never enough snacks for a toddler).  And then you had to put shoes on, button the jackets, and pull on the hats.

I was quite the site as I actually left the house and made my way to the car. I’d have the baby in the car seat in one arm, a chocked-full diaper bag slung over a shoulder, and a death grip on my toddler’s hand because we live on a main road and he constantly had the urge to bolt. I’m quite sure my physical appearance was striking. I was living off of two hours of sleep and caffeine, and was most likely sporting baby vomit somewhere on my attire.

MinivanOnce in the driveway, and approaching the stylish, yet roomy, minivan, I would tap the key fob and open the door so my toddler could climb in, if he felt the urge. Most times he would want to run around the outside of the car, causing me to go into cardiac arrest as I prayed he would not run toward the road. Once I coaxed him into the car, I would trap him in the van as I placed the baby carrier into its base. I would wedge the ginormous diaper bag between the seats and close the door. I’d enjoy about seven seconds of freedom as I walked around to the other side of the van to buckle my toddler into his car seat.

Usually, as I opened the door on the other side of the van I’d need to locate my toddler in the car.  One would think he would happily climb into his seat and wait to be buckled, or even try and buckle himself – but not this kid.  He would have either climbed into the driver’s seat to play “Captain” and pretend to steer the imaginary ship he created or he’d be hiding in the back of the van way out of reach from where I was on the side of the van waiting.  Once he was in his seat, buckled in, I’d close the door, and once again I’d enjoy a few seconds of silence during walk to the driver’s seat of the van.

All in all, it took no less than 20 minutes to walk out the door.

Today, I tell the boys to get their shoes, jackets and hats on. I open the door to the van from the porch. They climb into their seats. One is completely self-sufficient and buckles his own seat belt. The other needs assistance locking in the bottom of his straps, but buckles the top on his own. I climb into the driver’s seat and we’re off.

Approximately 3 minutes (if getting the shoes on is an issue).

I love the independence the boys are acquiring.

But it’s bittersweet.

My babies are growing up.  I’m not sure I’m ready.

I don’t think I have a choice.

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