My son is growing up.
Usually, when I put my son to bed, we read a story or two, sing some songs, then kiss good night.
But one night last week, he didn’t want to do any of that. He wanted to hop straight into bed, and then invited me to lie down beside him.
I did so our noses were touching. He whispered, “Hi.” I whispered it back. He whispered, “Mummy and Mitchy.” I whispered it back. He gave me a kiss. I kissed him back. He gave me a squeeze. I squeezed him back.
And this scene repeated a few times.
My heart sang. My little man is a constant ball of energy and difficult to pin down sometimes. This one-on-one-on-steroids time was beautiful.
And yet as I looked at him, seeing the slightly darker outline of his face in the incomplete darkness of his room, I couldn’t quieten the voice in my head. The voice that felt compelled to point out that he won’t want to do this forever.
My boy is growing up. My boy will grow up. There will come a time when he won’t want to lie down on the bed next to his mummy and whisper that he loves her.
There will probably come a time when he will be mortified that he ever wanted to do that.
My son is two now. TWO. Three years ago I was crying in the bathroom every month as we discovered that, once again, our efforts at conception hadn’t been successful. Two years ago he was refusing to sleep unless in someone’s arms.
He is now at that stage where his language development jumps ahead. From words to two words to sentences to complete thought translation in a matter of weeks.
Kids grow up. I know that. I know that too well. I can’t switch off the voice in my head that constantly tells me so.
Even as I was living this beautiful moment with my son, I was looking back on it from some future self with rose-coloured glasses. Perhaps the heightened awareness made the moment even more beautiful.
Or maybe my instant recasting of the moment for eternal memorydom was doing my son a disservice right in that very moment.
I don’t know. But I know that my son is growing up. And that getting to watch it happen is a privilege.
My daughter is growing up.
The day after I almost burst into tears while putting my son to bed, my daughter’s kindergarten photos were delivered. And I saw her anew.
And I actually burst into tears.
I’m a stay-at-home mum. I spend most days with my kids. I see them all the time, and I usually miss those moments that others notice. The growth spurts. The leaps in cognitive processing.
But I saw it all in those photos. I saw a kind, energetic, TALL (when did my tiny little baby start being taller than other kids her age?!), assured young girl. I saw the beaming smile of a happy person who is comfortable in being herself.
I saw a young girl. Not a baby. Not a toddler. Not even a pre-schooler, although she is one. I saw a young girl. A young person.
A girl with friends and family. A girl with likes and dislikes. A girl who loves to read, sing and dance. A girl who loves to make her little brother laugh. A girl who already has strong ideas about what is right and wrong.
A girl with a mind of her own. A girl with secrets.
My daughter is five now. FIVE. Five years ago I was still waking her every three hours to feed. She was still underweight. She was my whole world. And I was hers.
She’s still so much of my world. But I become less of hers every day. And that’s the way it should be.
But. WOW. Those moments of realisation. Realisation that she’s becoming herself. Realisation that much of who she’ll become is already right there for us to see. Realisation that other parts of who she’ll become will be influenced not by me, her father, her brother or the rest of our family and friends, but by people we’re yet to meet. By situations and events that we can’t yet imagine.
My daughter is growing up. And getting to watch it happen is a privilege.
I am growing up, too.
I’m learning a lot about myself and about parenting. I’m learning that I like to help my kids. I like to teach them things. I like to be involved.
But I’m also learning that as much as the early stages of parenting are about providing, teaching and helping, the main part of parenting is actually about letting go.
It’s about trusting your children to become who they are.
It’s so frightening. And so beautiful. I’m not sure if it’s beautiful in spite of being frightening, or because of it.
My kids are still young. I have many more of these lightbulb moments to come. But I’m betting a lot of them are about trust and letting go.
I’m learning so much. And as I watch my children grow up, they are watching me grow up too.
I can only hope that one day they might describe that as a privilege.
No matter where you are on the parenting journey – not yet started, the beginning, the middle, the end (is there an end?) – what do you think? What lessons has parenting taught you?