Ah, the last day of school has come and gone. Whoosh. It went that quickly.
And, as another school year passes, I again sit here reflecting on the year and the seemingly break-neck speed at which my children are growing – both in size and of mind.
This year is particularly poignant for me. It marks my full-on transition from being a “mom with young kids” to being a “mom with school-aged kids”. Grace’s successful completion of kindergarten fully jettisons me into a new arena, which I am sure will be every bit as fulfilling a journey as the preceding years.
Yet, still, I feel a little sad: it’s the end of a momming era for me. From my view, it’s one of those points in time where I am irrationally questioning whether my kids will need me anymore. I mean, of course they need me (they are only seven and six) – but you know what I mean…the uncertainty and unchartered course of the parenting path that lies ahead feels a little jarring to me.
I officially no longer have “little ones at home”. Or, I guess, really, as a full-time working mom, I no longer have the OPTION to have “little ones at home”. Haha. Ah, the constant internal mental battles of a working mom, right? Nonetheless, my point stands – my kids are getting older, and my momming is evolving as a result.
With a cursory reflection, I realize my role has officially shifted…
….from inducing baby / toddler sleep by singing lullabies, saying “shhhhhh”, patting bottoms and rocking little ones cradled in my arms
….to softly tickling arms and faces while tucking young people into bed and whispering good thoughts for sweet dreams into small ears, graciously indulging one last story from the day past, and gently quieting the resulting giggles. Secretly, though, I am absorbing every second to recall when memories of happy times are needed in the future.
…from reading baby books in silly voices
…to having books read to me in the tiny, shy voices my kids pull out when I actually WANT to hear them. (If their reading decibels mirrored their whining decibels, we’d be on to something here.) And as painful as early reading comes across to “sophisticated” adult ears, there’s something to be said for it – I am so amazed that MY CHILD is reading to me. And it’s awesome to see their confidence grow with each successful page read.
…from happily and carefully picking out sweet baby / toddler / pre-school clothes each morning for the day’s adventures ahead
…to slowly nodding my head in agreement for kid-selected outfits that don’t match (and honestly, usually make me cringe), but that I know make their small wearer very proud – if only because they get to wear their favorite shirt with their favorite shorts or skirt with their favorite shoes all at once or because they “matched” two completely different shades of blue or pink together.
…from easing toddler frustration borne from a quick hit, bite or snatched toy at a play date or play group
…to easing playground fears or discontent about the burgeoning social scene that elementary school seemingly brings. (Yes, already.)
…from math not being part of my daily repertoire in any meaningful way
…to panicking when it’s homework time and my two math-loving kids start challenging me to do quick addition and subtraction in my head “for fun”. (Not my strong suit. Never has been. And it’s even worse because they are taught to figure it out differently than I was. I am more one for words and history and the like. ;). And, yes, we are talking about Kindergarten and First Grade math here – still makes me panic.)
And so much more. So much more.
As my kids continue to grow and mature, I realize that our relationship is growing and maturing right along with them. I am finding that if pre-school parenting is about creating foundational emotional bonds, then early school-age parenting is about building on that foundation to create strong relationships. I am also finding that parenting is one of those things you only begin to understand with the wisdom that comes from experience (which explains my mom’s giggling when I would quote sleep books to her when Gavin was a newborn). So, today, as I reflect upon the school year, here’s what I am learning as I embrace my growing children and move into my new school-age momming era:
I am needed for hugs – and now that they are older, I find they hug for a reason and they hug with awareness: love, happiness, hurt feelings, the comfort a mom hug brings when something’s uncertain. They know when they need a little extra love and if I am not having a particularly perceptive / in-tune mom day, they ask for it. This makes me happy. And, as a bonus, they no longer leave a boogie trail on my shoulder. (Well, most of the time.)
I am needed as an audience – no longer to look at a tiny car, or small stuffed toy or block tower, but now to check out their art work or watch “performances” – usually dance performances (God help us all!), but also singing, plastic instrument concerts, and the occasional school project rehearsal.
I am needed for bedtime snuggles – I know the days are coming when good night hugs and kisses will be replaced with grunts that sound like good night, eye rolls and sighs. I know the days are coming when we’ll have to remind our kids to give us a hug or kiss good night, so I try my very hardest to relish the bedtime routine they delight in today. And, let’s be honest – at the end of long days, it’s pretty awesome to have two happy little faces telling you they love you and squeezing their arms around your neck just as hard as they can. Again, absorbing happy memories.
I am needed as their cheerleader – building confidence is hard, and it seems my kids are quick to throw in the towel when they mess up (either really messed up or perceived that they messed up). For now, I love that they flick their eyes over to me for encouragement when they need it, but I also know that, in time (and with practice), they’ll be able to draw from themselves the courage / strength / belief that’s needed to keep going when things get hard.
I am needed as their voice of reason – but now it’s less about pretending they aren’t mine when they are having a complete meltdown in public (kidding!) and more about helping them calm down and see alternate view points when things aren’t going as they hoped or planned. Or helping them overcome a mental hurdle around homework, a play time situation, or a sports game. Trying to channel their passion (read: tears!) in the right way is one of the harder things to manage, I find. I try to tell myself that it’s good they have conviction, right?! haha.
I am now needed TO LISTEN, as opposed to being simply being LISTENED TO (on good days!). With growing children comes growing two-way communication. There’s interaction – and questions, oh so many questions – but there’s also understanding and comprehension. And this might be my favorite part of my evolved momming gig: we have conversations as a family. And, equally as important – our kids can legitimately make us laugh. Good to see that all our joking around and sarcasm and teaching them what being a good sport means is taking off…so far (and most of the time. We’re still learning to joke with friends vs. getting upset sometimes!).
Phew. That was a lot.
So…Now that I am fully through pre-school, I find I am once again amazed at the various stages kids go through. I think the jump from pre-school to Kindergarten in terms of growth and learning is enormous. Not quite as dramatic as the growth from newborn to one year, but still pretty impressive. Let’s take a quick look at one example.
Grace entered Kindergarten not knowing how to read, and today, she sits beside me, reading book after book, chapter after chapter. She has all the skills to sound out tricky words. And she reads with tone and inflection to make the stories interesting. (And thank goodness for that with some of the books she picks out at the library. For the record – Barbie and Disney Princess books are simply APPALLING – lacking cohesive story lines and rampant with blatant typos. Our kids – and in this case, our girls! – deserve better. Subject matter aside – no book for children should ever be published with typos. We’ve made a deal that Grace can get one junky book (i.e. those I’ve just described) as long as she also brings home some better selections. Luckily, in the last months of school, she found the animal section and has been regaling us with facts about puppies and raccoons instead of torturing us with made-up nonsense about Barbie and her 12 dancing sisters. But I digress. )
I remember being amazed at Gavin doing this with reading last year, too. This year, I am in awe of his math skills. If he keeps going at this rate, he’ll be doing math more quickly in his head than I can with pencil and paper. In fairness, though, I favor writing over numbers – and always have, as noted above.
And, so, herein lies the infinite joy of being a parent: your kids will never cease to amaze you. Although my children are only seven and six, I am convinced that my heart will always swell with unending love and pride when I see them experiencing and conveying something new. And as I enter the next phase of parenting – “mom of school-age children”, I am sure they will always need me for something. Our relationship will look different and feel different than it did yesterday, but I am more convinced than ever that being there is actually what they need most. We’ll figure the rest out together.