Everyone loves babies. We all know to fear the terrible two’s (which all parents know is actually the terrible three’s) and we love the cute smiles in kindergarten pictures. We look forward to the teenage years with mixed emotions as they bring freedom and fun…but then again…they’re the teenage years.
But hold up… Somewhere in there we skipped a handful of years. We missed looking forward to those awkward, toothless, messy-haired mini-adults immersed in the stage I like to refer to as the “middle years.” They reside between six and 10 years old. And they might just be the most underrated ages that grace our presence in childhood.
My kids, currently in the prime middle years of six and nine, make me laugh every day – and it’s a stage I never anticipated (or thought about). Here are my reasons why the middle years rule my world:
They’re starting to get it. I can have a normal, adult(ish) conversation with both of my kids. Conversations with meaning and topics that are actually interesting to me. I can talk to them about politics, sports, and the motivation behind decisions they make. They are contemplative when it comes to spending money and they are willing to help with things around the house. Not because I tell them to, but because they know it needs to get done. Except changing the toilet paper roll. That’s obviously a concept beyond their years.
But they don’t really get it. And this is the fun part. Entangled in these meaningful conversations is the ability to see the world through a new light. They are learning so many new things for the first time, and the questions they ask and the assumptions they make are so innocent and genuine. The magic is still alive for so many things and we are still able to pull the wool over their eyes. Just last week we told them we were taking them to the mall to visit their favorite store. Three hours later, we were at the Mall of America for a fun few days away. And they didn’t have a clue until we were in the city. I know the window of opportunity is short on this and it’s so much fun now that they’re older.
They still love their mom. Sigh. This is where I want to freeze time. Although I miss the time when my little babies would fall asleep in my arms and smile at me with those pudgy little cheeks, I don’t miss those cute little monsters screaming through the entire night, throwing tantrums, and touching me with those sticky little hands. Now, even though they still have sticky little hands, those little monsters aren’t afraid to give me spontaneous hugs (even in public!), snuggle during a movie with their favorite blanket, and tell me that I’m the “best mom ever” (they’ll learn). I soak in Every. Single. Moment. Because I’ve heard all about those pesky tweens, and I’m guessing my kids will join the club making those moments fewer and farther between. Except for the boy. He’ll always love his mama. (I can hold out hope, right?)
They’re weird. And they don’t care. My daughter’s hair could be in knots and my son could have food all over his face and they’d be ready to rock school picture day. My son has no qualms about talking in some sort of newly invented language when he meets my new friends. And for every perfect family picture, he makes sure there are 80 outtakes. These kids are strange. They have weird ideas, their imaginations are wild with possibilities, and they’re proud of it. I only wish I could be so strange.
They’re teachable. I have to admit, I don’t remember a lot of my own middle years. I DO remember my middle and high school years, and I could tell you that I knew it all. I remember knowing WAY more than my parents (and I might still…). But now. In these middle years. Not only will my daughter listen patiently as I teach her math, but she’ll soak in LIFE lessons. Which is really where the sweet spot lies. This is the age where they learn how to be a good friend, why they should be a good friend, and the true meaning of empathy. And if they don’t learn it the first time, they can correct it for next time. I can literally feel the clay in my hand as I mold these little friends. And that’s what matters.
So for now, I’ll seize the moment. I’ll carpe diem. I know that there will be bumps in the road, but I’m going to go with it. I’ll let my daughter wear her fake glasses with the plastic bow and I’ll take 100 pictures to get the perfect one. I know these days aren’t perfect, but looking back, I know they’ll be pretty darn close.