Spring is in the air, kids are getting squirmy, and even adults can sense that the end of the school year is looming. The smell of diesel hanging in warm spring air reminds us of the uninhibited joy of boarding the bus for home on the last day of school.
With only a couple months left of the current school year, our house will soon have a second grader. A second grader! Pretty sure he was in preschool yesterday, so I'm not quite sure how that happened.
Our youngest proudly tells anyone who will listen, "I'm a four-year-old. That means I'm almost a five-year-old." My baby is almost old enough for kindergarten, eager to hop on the bus with her big brother in the morning with a big old "peace out" for the two old folks left standing on the curb.
But this mama is excited. Pumped even.
Absolutely no tears here. No laments of time slipping away too quickly. No “where did my baby go?!” teary emoji faces on social media. Just unadulterated, joy-filled celebration.
Aside from the fact that kids' enthusiasm is infectious and kids love their birthdays more than bubbles and puppies, children become increasingly pleasant—and so much more human—with each passing birthday. Every year I announce, “I changed my mind: This is my new favorite age!” Each new year with a tiny human brings joy compounded.
Babies rely on parents and caregivers for absolutely every need—for basic survival. And so do older kids. They just cloak their reliance with occasional stabs at independence. They may be able to scale cupboards for their own snack or sleep all night without being nursed or bottle-fed back to sleep, but they still rely on us for survival. They need us to help navigate the social minefield of elementary school. They need a safe place to ask the big questions they can't ask anywhere else. They need to push against the limits we set for them that they claim to hate, but are so glad are there.
Besides, babies are hard. Really freaking hard! Like, possible-violation-of-Geneva-Convention hard. Older kids bring such glorious independence. They play outside alone, they sit and read books alone, and they sleep. Dear God in heaven, they sleep.
Finding contentedness as kids age into a new grade or hit a new birthday kids’ birthdays—or reach any number of other milestones that mark the heavy passage of time—lies in the presence of mind to live each moment in the present. Waxing nostalgic for the days when a preschooler could sleep in the crook of her parent's arm won’t turn the three-year-old into an infant again. Worrying that a newly minted kindergartener will soon graduate from high school will only make time with him pass more quickly.
When I find myself inevitably noticing how quickly time moves, I remember the parents of the countless numbers of children lost far too soon to illness, violence, natural disaster, hunger, or any other unimaginable tragedy. Those of us who are lucky enough to see our children grow older have the enviable privilege of watching them mature into the amazing adults they will become.