My kids are getting bigger. Soon I’ll enter the Chauffeur Years, when mothers become a barely tolerated presence in kids’ lives, good only for food, cash, and transport. With that in mind, I’m trying like hell to enjoy the time I’ve got left in the Little Kid Years.
And I do enjoy a lot of it. I love that my kids still rely on goodnight hugs and kisses and stories read aloud in order to fall asleep. I do. It’s too bad that this special time always comes at the end of the day when my nerves are frayed and my wine is downstairs waiting for me with the promise of peace and quiet.
I love that my kids still crave my approval and I know I’ll miss it when they no longer need or want my attention. But really, I just can’t feign interest in what you built in Minecraft and that song you’re singing was cute, an hour ago.
These little kid years are fleeting and all the magic that comes with them is but a moment in our children’s lives. As parents we know this so we try to drink up all the magic, and create even more by putting our children in situations where there will be more and more and more magic. Our little kids’ wonder is our drug.
We bring our children to Disney World so we can see that look on their faces – the one of pure wonder and joy that only little kids have. And we get it. We get that moment and our hearts fill, our cups runneth over, and we gain the emotional fortitude it takes not to strangle them when they’re falling apart a few minutes later, throwing epic fits born of overstimulation, exhaustion, and too much GD Florida sunshine. We bring our children to the beach and are justly rewarded with peals of laughter in the waves, tongues held out between teeth in extreme sand castle concentration, and boundless energy for chasing down seagulls, flying kites, and catching crabs in tide pools. We get our fill of the magic, and we don’t commit murder when they cry from hunger, freak out from sand in shoes, and complain the entire car ride home.
As with so many of the lovely things in life, little-kidhood is a two-sided coin. One side is full of giggles, cuddles, and wonder. It’s all enthusiasm. It’s witnessing a person encounter a firefly for the first time, a shooting star. It’s understanding that there is no greater thing than s’mores, a snow day, a rainbow. The other side is quite the opposite. If a day can be the “best day ever!” because of a lollipop, likewise, it can be the worst because of peas touching potatoes. A sibling can be a best friend, and a mortal enemy vying for the love of the people who should only have eyes for you.
This tricky coin flips easily and many times per day. Anything can flip it. There are known triggers that we parents work hard to mitigate: hunger, fatigue, overstimulation, errands, lines, frustration, transition, waiting 5 more minutes for anything, but especially dinner. It can flip back just as easily. Generally bodily functions related to digestion are the most efficient means of doing this. We parents live our lives by this fickle coin.
I’m trying hard to relish the waning years of little-kidness remaining to me. I marinate in morning snuggles and sweetness, which helps me manage later-morning attitude. I exalt moments of sibling playfulness, full of princess dresses, spy gear, and astonishing imagination, which helps me through sibling fights full of yelling, hitting, and inevitable crying. I cherish childish mispronunciations and misunderstandings, which helps me bear their diminishing number. Mostly, I have to be actively mindful of my limited time in this space. My kids are getting bigger. I have to get all the cuddles now.