My oldest son just turned 9, and in a couple of months, my youngest will turn 7. I think that this might qualify me as no longer having “little kids.” If I didn’t realize this from people’s comments of, “Oh, you have real people now,” (were they somehow fake before?), then I know it from the many small but significant changes that have recently taken place in our household. Some examples:
Several weeks ago, my now 9-year-old was invited to go to the movies with a friend on a Saturday night, a “play-date” that necessitated a 10:30 p.m. pick up, leaving my husband and I to discuss which one of us would stay up late enough to go pick him up. Upon hearing this, my mother (somewhat gleefully, with the not-so-hidden subtext of “payback’s a b!&%” ) remarked that this was “only the beginning.”
The next weekend, we went to an ice skating rink with some friends. While last year this meant spending a painful hour hunched over my youngest son while we made our way so slowly around the rink that at times it seemed we were moving backwards, this year, both kids took off with their friends, leaving me to skate and chat with my friend. We were able to have a conversation characterized by complete trains of thought, where one of us could finish a sentence and the other could respond coherently—I had almost forgotten that this was possible.
To add to my sense of wonderment, this week, when a last minute change in travel plans left me flying with my two kids alone, I actually found the experience pleasant. Each child was responsible for his own bags, my oldest led us all to the correct gate, and—even with a delay—no one whined that they were hungry, bored, tired, or wanted to be home already (granted, this may have been due to the area with the free, game-loaded tablets, but I’ll take what I can get).
Now, I am under no illusions that it will always be like this, and anyone who knows my children can vouch that they are far from angelic. The truth is, part of me worries about what lies ahead. Since so many clichés of parenthood have proven to be true—you know, the ones about how they grow up in a blink of the eye, and how you will forget those sleepless nights—I am also afraid that the often bespoke “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems” might also soon reveal itself to be true.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is also a part of me that waxes nostalgic when I see pregnant women, newborn babies, and the cute shuffle of little toddler feet—wondering why it is so hard to remember what my kids and my life were like at those stages, even though it was not all that long ago.
Perhaps I am at a sweet, liminal moment when my kids are old enough to be more independent, enjoyable, “real” people, but still young enough to retain their innocence, want to cuddle, and not be embarrassed to be seen with me in public. As the preschool easel paintings on their bedroom walls are replaced with posters of Tom Brady and Fenway Park (yes, my kids are growing up as Boston sports fans in New York—it builds character), I am willing myself to treasure this time, because I’m sure that before I know it, I will be sitting at my sons’ high school graduations worrying about their “big kid” problems and wondering how they went so quickly from being my babies to being fully grown boys.