Ten years, 11 months, 15 days, and 28 minutes.
That is the amount of time my son has lived earth-side. How can that be?
I won’t be hyperbolic and say it feels like “just yesterday,” because…well, it doesn’t feel like yesterday. It feels like a really long time.
But it also doesn’t seem possible that I’ve been a mother for more than a decade, that we are more than halfway through this gossamer and idyllic thing known as “childhood.”
Lately, I catch myself staring at my son, searching for the little boy — the baby — that he used to be. Where did that child go? His big chunky cheeks are gone. His almond eyes are a bit rounder now. Even his long, shaggy hair has been cut short. My little boy is turning into someone different, and I’m keenly aware that the changes will only accelerate over the next handful of years.
Parenting has a way of surprising you — not just because it is harder, better, and so much more than expected — but also because time isn’t linear or consistent. Time seems to twist and bend and jump so that it feels like you’ve skipped through entire years while some days have lasted a lifetime. The milestones that you thought would be a big deal — learning to walk, going to kindergarten, losing a tooth — slip into the ether of daily life.
It is the random Tuesday nights, the midweek carpools, the dance parties in the kitchen that etch themselves into our brains. And so it is that 10 years, 11 months, 15 days, and 28 minutes somehow feels like a really big deal.
When my son turned 10 — double digits! — we celebrated with the usual fanfare but little emotion. We had a small party with a few close friends, and sang “Happy Birthday” at least a half-dozen times, but there were no tears, no parental angst about the swift passage of time.
But now, at 10 years, 11 months, 15 days, and 28 minutes, I find myself wondering: Is this as good as it gets? Is this the last best age of childhood? Or worse, is this the beginning of the end of childhood?
I’m having some big feelings about this.
I’m not one to pine for the baby years or want to rush into the next phase. I truly believe that the best phase is whatever one we are in — whether it is the baby years, toddlerhood, or this “sweet spot.” Even threeagers hold a special place in my heart, and I don’t ascribe to the “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems” mentality. It’s all hard and good, just for very different reasons. I’m sure that I will love and hate the teen years, just like I simultaneously loved and hated the newborn phase.
Ten years, 11 months, 15 days, and 28 minutes to be exact.
This is something else altogether. It feels like a turning point of sorts. Like if I blink or turn my head for a minute, when I look back childhood will be a rainbow in the rearview mirror instead of the fog it sometimes feels like we’re driving through. Ten is one foot firmly planted childhood and the other stepping cautiously toward those preteen years and eventually young adulthood.
Ten is sports and Xbox and drawing pictures of animals. Ten is baseball cleats and athletic cups. It is diving for a catch in the outfield (and actually making it), but also crying on the bench after striking out, again.
Ten is slammed doors, followed by tearful hugs and apologies. Ten is long conversations and hard questions about God and sex and why there are so many homeless people. Ten is wanting to actually know the answers to those questions and having their own perspectives and opinions. Ten is knowing when to say, no more talking, please.
Ten is watching Moana and Star Wars. It is singing along to bands like The XX and Imagine Dragons, but getting most of the words wrong. Ten is occasional swearing and inappropriate “yo’ mama” jokes. Ten is finally understanding sarcasm.
Ten is loud and annoying. It is fidget spinners and bottle flipping. Ten is also sweet and soft. It is handmade Mother’s Day cards and an arm around a friend when they cry.
Ten still comes into your bed in the morning to snuggle, but instead of cartoons, SportsCenter is turned on.
Ten is smelly T-shirts and sweaty armpits. Ten is constant reminders to take a freaking shower already.
Ten is leaning in for hugs (in public!), but not wanting to hold hands. It is long bedtime hugs some nights, and quick waves other nights.
Ten is staying home alone (for short periods of time). It is walking to the convenience store to get candy, and bringing some home for his mom. Ten is forgetting homework some days, but remembering to study for a spelling test other days.
Ten is rolling your eyes at the kissing scenes in action movies. Ten is wanting to watch scary movies, but closing your eyes for most of it. Ten is feet that grow two sizes in as many months. Ten is a forehead that reaches into the crook of my neck on my shoulder.
Ten is little. Ten is big.
And yes, 10 is the last best age of childhood.
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