A few weeks ago during a rainy Sunday afternoon, my house was completely quiet for almost three hours. My kids, who are 10, 11, and 13, made their own snacks, cleaned up after themselves, and sat down to watch Toy Story. I stood and tiptoed to the kitchen. I was afraid any sudden movements would disturb their catatonic state until I realized something: I don’t have to do that anymore. They are past the age where making eye contact or walking into the next room alerts them and disturbs whatever they are engaged in.
And I can tell you that right now, I am experiencing the best of both worlds, and it is glorious. Here are 10 reasons why this stage is the best yet:
1. They still get in bed with me and snuggle.
Sometimes it’s early in the morning. Sometimes they wander in during the middle of the night. But here’s the thing: They actually fall asleep in two shakes. If they don’t, I tell them to go back in their own bed and they do. By themselves.
2. They don’t believe in made up characters.
They know the Tooth Fairy does not exist, so if I forget to put money under their pillow, there will be no sobbing or thinking it was because they were naughty that day. You can hand them a few bucks, tell them you are sorry you forgot, and call it good. Also, moving the damn elf every night is a thing of the past. Now my son and daughter do it for each other. No more panic attacks at 1 a.m. because I forgot to move the little pain in the ass.
3. Eating out is enjoyable again.
You can go to a restaurant and actually eat because they want to eat. They are hungry all the time, and there is never enough food in the house no matter how much money you spend at the grocery store. You finally shed those five pounds from eating their leftover grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese because there are no leftovers.
4. You like some the same movies.
And you actually get to watch them in their entirety because you aren’t taking them to the bathroom all the time. And when you have to go visit the little girls’ room from drinking that enormous soda, you can just get up and go alone without peeling them away.
5. Running into the store is lightening fast.
Or at least that’s how you feel as you run in there with your arms free. There is no fighting about unbuckling seat belts. They can open the door and follow you in without supervision, and you now have help carrying all those bags. Or, if you really feel wild, you can just leave them at home.
6. They are still home on Friday and Saturday night.
Their social life has not fully consumed them yet. They are too young to be out with friends all the time. They are still home safe with you, yet they are old enough to engage in great conversations — sometimes about politics, and sometimes about their favorite stuffed animal.
7. You are still smarter than them.
If they try to get away with something like sneaking extra video game time or dipping into your hidden chocolate treasures, you catch them pretty easily. They haven’t mastered the art of getting away with much. Yet.
8. They still like to hang out with you.
While you do some stuff to embarrass them, they still really need you and they show it. They still crave quite a bit of time with you especially if they get you all to themselves. Also, they still laugh at your jokes and think you are somewhat funny. You feel it slipping away, but once in a while, you bring out their silly side.
9. They still tell you stuff.
They have not reached the age where you feel like you are trying to crack into a coconut with a rubber knife when you ask them about their day. You can read their moods, and even if they are quiet at first, you can usually get them to talk, especially if you bribe them.
10. They are able to express how they feel.
They use their words all the time now. While there are still tears, there aren’t tantrums. You are able to reason with them on a different level. You don’t have to leave your full cart in the grocery store because they went ballistic in aisle two because they wanted all the salt shakers. They now know about all the different flavors of Oreos, and when you respond with, “You can pick out one,” they may pout, but that is all. They know by now you will put those suckers back if they say anything else about it.
This time is fleeting, I know. So I am soaking it in as much as I can, for as long as I can. The time will come all too soon where my kids will be out most Friday and Saturday nights. They will get better at sneaking around, and going to the movies and out to eat won’t happen as often. So for now, I will enjoy the best of both worlds and hope time will slow down for me, if only a little.