This summer has been the best yet. It’s been the kind of summer that I want to revel in forever. The kind that someday I will look back on with great fondness. This morning I glanced at my kids as they put their bike helmets on and rode off to the neighborhood park… and at that moment I came to the realization that we have entered the glorious middle years of parenting. The middle years are sandwiched somewhere in between the toddler years and the teen years.
My kids are 7, 5 & 5. All three kids use booster seats and are able to buckle themselves in. All three kids dress themselves in the morning, brush their own teeth and look both ways before crossing the street. We are done with diapers and they know their address.
They still need me, but in an entirely different way. They still need me to read to them before bed; to kiss their ouchies; and to spray ‘monster perfume’ in their bedrooms at night (to keep those pesky monsters away…!); to remind them to pick up their toys and to comfort them when they are sad or scared.
They’re not teenagers yet, but they are no longer babies… or even toddlers. And to be completely honest, the baby years and toddler years were challenging. We had three kids within 20 months. I would not change a thing about it, but I am luxuriating in the calmness and excitement the middle years will bring us.
When we go to the park I can actually sit down and have an adult conversation with a friend. I’m not worried that they will go off with a stranger or put something gross in their mouth. I know they won’t run off and I know they are well aware of their limits… so injuries are less likely. They don’t need me to keep them entertained every waking moment – but they do still allow me to play their games or to be the Snow Monster whenever I desire. It’s that sweet spot where I’m a little less needed, but am still definitely wanted.
The tantrums are further and further in between. They still have their moments (plenty of complaining and demands) – but I can actually sit down and reason with them. When I ask them to clean their rooms or to do something they don’t want to do – there might be an eye roll or an utterance under their breath… but then they do it.
They still need me, but they are gaining their independence at the same time. They need me to tuck them in and when they are hurt or worried – I am the person they call out for. They still give me hugs and kisses and make me feel loved – but then they run out the front door and play with their friends.
I get to watch them spread their wings and try new things as they discover their passions. And watching them do things that I loved as a child is allowing me to relive my own childhood vicariously through them. It’s magical. Nothing makes my heart happier than when they do something that they didn’t know they could do. When they push through the challenges and conquer their fears. When they take seconds off their mile in a road race; when they conquer the monkey bars; when they score a basket; when they learn a new song on the piano; when they jump off the diving board for the first time… the milestones look different now – but oh. my. gosh. THEY are SO magical!
We have conversations about current events and relevant news; we tell jokes and they understand the punchline. They can sense when I’m sad or stressed and they ask me what’s wrong and show me compassion – but they can also tell when I am so, so, so proud of them – and it makes them push harder. We are playing the games (and reading the books and watching the shows) that I grew up with. From the game of Life (where we actually play BY THE RULES…) to listening to my 7 year old read Babysitters Club books before bed… to watching the OG Full House on Hulu. These are the days.
These are the days I never want to forget. These are the days that I want to revel in and these are the days when I want a pause button. These days are not perfect (trust me – they still argue and there are still plenty of messes and they press my buttons); but these days are SO special. These are the days where they need me a little bit less, but where they still want me more than ever. They get excited to spend time with me (one on one time is an actual reward for them)… but then they happily frolic off with their friends when the opportunity arises. The baby years were sweet, but man oh man… the middle years – which we hear very little about… these are a treasure.