I noticed the shift over the winter when we went sledding. To be able to take the kids to the park and have them all drag their own sleds back up the hill was amazing. They can all put on their own boots, find their own mittens, and tell me when they are getting too cold. It was simply a nice outing where I could enjoy it as a member of the family, not the mom in charge of everything. I only had to be prepared to be in charge if necessary. Aden even made the hot chocolate when we got home.
I've thought a lot about this balance of my kids being young enough and old enough over the last few weekends. For both fun things and important things, it's made a huge difference in how I parent, live my life, and what all of us as a family are able to do.
On the last day of summer vacation I took the kids out to fly kites by the lake, and we had so much fun we did it again the following weekend during a kite festival. Until Labor Day weekend we owned one kite. Aden picked it out years ago, but it's been a hard thing to want to break out and play with because she needed help to make it fly, and her siblings were too young to do it with her but of course they wanted to. Flying a kite sounded fun in theory, but it was complicated back then.
Now it's easy. I bought Mona and Quinn their own kites, and eventually bought one for myself because there was time enough for me to have fun, too. I did spend a while at the kite festival untangling string for Mona, and then Quinn, but that happens. It made me feel useful.
They're young enough that when Mona tried to hand Quinn her kite string to give him a chance to fly her eagle kite, they dropped it and it took off across the field. They're old enough that I could just watch the two of them hilariously chase the thing down until they caught it themselves. They're young enough they want me to admire what they're doing ("My kite is the highest in the sky!" "Mom! I'm flying my kite with my feet!") but old enough to also just take pleasure in the activity on their own.
I wasn't managing the day; I got to be a part of the day. I got to fly kites with my kids, not (pardon the pun) pulling all the strings so just they could enjoy it.
My kids don't need me every moment, but they like my company and want my help.
I can leave them at home to manage themselves if I need to go to work or run errands. When their dad is away on an Army weekend they help in ways that are actually helpful. They can walk the dog, pick up clutter, and they know how to cook. My kids make crepes on the their own if I don't get up early enough on the weekends and they are hungry.
They're old enough to bathe themselves, but young enough that they like it when I wash their hair for them. They are old enough they can put themselves to bed without me, but young enough they still like it when I read them a story before the lights go out. They are old enough to carry their own water bottles when we go to the zoo, but young enough they need to be reminded to bring them before we get in the car. They are old enough to want to earn a little money, but young enough they have no real use for it yet.
They are still young enough to show affection without embarrassment, to believe I'm beautiful and smart and cool, and to still be my babies (even if one of those babies now comes up to the middle of my nose when she hugs me). They are old enough to appreciate how special our time is together as a family, and to want to make the most of their time as children.
I adored my children as babies. I had trouble imagining that anything ahead could be as sweet. But each day they get more interesting. Each time they leave behind one more stage and move on to the next I mourn briefly, but then marvel in their new, brighter selves. The same way I would not go backwards in my own life given the choice, I wouldn't turn back the clock on my kids, either. Who they are and who they are becoming remains fascinating. And wonderful.
I'm glad I'm young enough to enjoy them, and old enough to understand how precious that really is.
|Quinn and his kite|
|Aden and her kite|
|Mona's string and half an hour of my life|
|All four of our kites (enlarged)|
|All four of our kites as they really looked from the ground|
|Mona and her eagle kite|
|My new kite! I love this kite.|
|Mona, Quinn, and Aden: First day of school|