"No," I replied to the young cutie behind the counter as he served my nieces lemonade. "But the last time I was on a riverboat was when I was their ages or so. Grandpa used to take me on the Juliabelle." He grinned while I remembered rabbits' feet and holding hands while we watched the bright red wheel push us through the muddy water.
I held hands again, this time with the Ones, as Little wrinkled her nose over getting splashed and Smallest charmed everyone in sight with her imitations of the wheel. They're adorable and I considered myself the lucky one when I included in chasing children, cuddles and conversation with the girls while my parents sat in rocking chairs on an upper deck and enjoyed our midday cruise.
We began to struggle near the end of the outing. Smallest One became increasingly difficult as her nap time came and went, going where she wasn't allowed, pushing me away as I tried to keep her safe and sound.
"Smallest. One." I warned at one point, using my firmest voice and most serious expressions.
"Aunt. Katie." She mimicked me perfectly, down to the emphasis on each word and narrowed eyes, making me choke back laughter before I tugged her out of the restricted area. Again.
Mom joined us later, allowed me to cuddle with Little as she battled Smallest. They bickered and I smoothed Little One's hair back from her face, turning to watch as Mom held up one finger and said, "one..."
The giggle escaped, though I did turn my head when Smallest One put a hand on her hip and held two fingers up on the other one. "Two," she said simply.
I feel for Little One, even as it annoys me when she pouts, for I released her hand countless times to chase after Smallest One. She's always getting dumped off of laps as we leap up to catch a falling toddler or asked to wait while we deal with another daring feat.
She did have her grandparents to herself when I went to nap with Smallest One. As her sister continued to sleep, Little One set off with her mother to buy school clothes and check the lists on the door of her building to see which Kindergarten teacher she would have.
I was thinking on my drive home, a not unpleasant but lengthy musing over what I want from the rest of my life. Having children has drifted down on the list and I think the Ones are a big part of that. They're wonderful - impossibly adorable, smart, funny, creative and charming. And it terrifies me that they'll face pain and fear as they continue to grow - personal challenges, academic failures, not making the cheerleading squad. So perhaps having a family is something I'll continue to do from being a half-step removed.
And I'm content with that, actually. Surprisingly so.
I'm less happy with other trends, but I have ideas around those too. Perhaps I'll use the quiet of this weekend to try to write an achingly personal post about relationships. One can always hope, yes?