With my youngest now seven, I can open the door to our car and my kids all just get in and when I cook dinner there’s a decent chance I’ll get to eat it while it’s hot. My kids are all aging out of the neediest* part of their childhood and as much as I worried about them getting older I have to say I’m loving it. (*Quick clarification: physically needy, not emotionally needy, the hormonal years are staring us down.)
There is so much complaining to do about parenthood when our kids are young and we all do it because it’s part of keeping our sanity above sea level but there are also a million perks that fly past our blurry eyed-selves until they’re gone and we’re begging them back.
We are parenting through the in between years. Our kids are old enough to begin rolling their eyes yet young enough to be incapable of backing out of the driveway on the days we’ve ruined their lives. These semi-little people want nothing more than our time and our attention– maybe our money and a trip to Disney World too– but for a brief part of their lives we’re still near center in their universe.
Who knew in those awkward years of just wanting to fit in, that one day three people would fight over sitting on my right side and beg me to spell something before I can finish a shower?
I’m now living on eight consecutive hours of sleep (when my body decides not to wake me up at 4 a.m.) and I can give them that scary look with my eyes to quiet them when I need to finish a phone call. The best of parenting, the part of being loved so stinking much we’re offered squeeze hugs and open invitations to hold hands, is still hanging on. We have years or days left of this good stuff before it will be replaced with something new, but right now I can’t imagine anything better.
We’re still the best at nighttime stories and coloring in the lines and we’re allowed to lose our minds over good grades and lost teeth.
We’re the givers of holiday magic and the recipients of misspelled cards and art projects that fall apart when the wind blows.
Little faces have pursed in concentration to write our names and build us LEGO houses and beat us at every board game imaginable. Growing hands still reach for when they are sick or scared or hoping we’ll carry all their stuff on a long walk to the car.
We’ve ran up and down soccer fields and beside two-wheel bikes and been the only ones entrusted with friendship secrets and Sunday night worries.
Our in between-ers still ask for one more glass of water or a reading of the longest chapter in the history of chapter books or a day at home, because the spot next to us on the couch is perfect.
We make the food they’d rather eat and buy the snacks they like most but sometimes we mess up things much bigger than lunch and they love us anyway.
Our calendars are full of games and practices and performances where we are sought out for a brief moment of eye contact, a quick wave or a stealth blown kiss meant just for our cheek.
We’ve stressed over small houses and sticky minivans and hand-me-down jeans that will someday fold into their favorite memories.
Someone has worried over how we’ll feel when we notice the broken frame or the terribly cleaned up paint or the dog who they forgot might eat half the living room, because fun is fun but when it’s over our smile is still a bigger deal.
They’ve offered up notes under the door or their favorite markers or some awful tasting sandwich to fix our bad days.
When we go to bed at night there is someone who can’t wait to see us in the morning and wouldn’t even mind if we woke them up that second, for one more hug or a look at the stars, because our adventures are the best kind.
And when we wake up in the morning we are always, always in the company of someone who loves us just for being there. For being Mom or Dad, the one who held them first or second, who chose their name and gave them deep blue eyes or chocolate brown hair and wants nothing but the best for them.
Because the only thing better than loving this middle-sized being at the in between of their childhood is being so fiercely loved right back.
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