Lately I’ve been hyper aware of the fact that I’m transitioning to the next stage in this parenting journey.  In fact, truth be told, I’m already there.  But in my mind, I’m still transitioning.  I don’t do change well, can you tell?

It was weird to move out of the baby stage, to be done with breastfeeding and diapers.  It was a startling realization the first time I looked at one of my friends who was still in that stage and thought to myself, “I’m done.  I’ll never do that again.”

It’s an odd feeling, but strangely exhilarating.

You have to understand.  I love and adore babies.  Love, love, LOVE.  I would have a dozen if I didn’t have to carry them or potty train them or pay for college.  (And if I had a nanny and a live-in maid and a 10,000 sq. ft. house…) Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she???

But now that glorious baby stage is officially behind me, and I’m okay with that.  I tend to live in the now.

Of course, my now is evolving too.  I am actually getting ready to move out of the preschool stage.  I didn’t foresee this happening so quickly.  I mean, everyone TOLD me it would go fast, but there’s no preparing a mother for how quickly her babies will change.  I feel like just about the time I get used to one phase, it’s time to move onto the next.

I knew when we started planning our family that they wouldn’t be babies forever.  I’m very realistic.  I was prepared for them to grow into demanding toddlers and go off to preschool.  I read discipline books when my kids were in the womb.  I wanted to be ready.  But for some reason, I never really thought much past preschool.  Moms of elementary aged kids and teenagers always seemed so far ahead of me.

But guess what?  Next year, all three of my kids will be in elementary school.  After that, I will officially have a middle schooler.  I can’t articulate how surreal that is.

So for now, I’m trying to drink in my four-year-old.

I love four.  It’s such a great age.  She is reasonably independent.  She is potty trained. She is curious and full of wonder.  You can actually reason with her to a certain point.  She is still soft and cuddly and curls up in my lap for kisses and snuggles.  And she has this dear little voice that articulates her thoughts in such clever ways.

I’m always laughing when I’m with my 4-year-old, although I have to hide the fact that I’m laughing.  She is wise to me now, and she doesn’t like it when I laugh at her.  She wants to be grown up.  She wants to be taken seriously.  She’s four going on fourteen, that one.

I eat her up because I know it’s almost over.  Soon she will be a gangly schoolgirl with over-sized teeth and dirty fingernails, running off with her friends at every available opportunity.  And the next thing I know, she’ll be an awkward adolescent with pimples and algebra.  I don’t even want to think about dating and driving and college, but I’ve learned my lesson.  Those stages are right around the corner.

But you know what?  There’s something to be said for each new phase of parenthood.  While I mourn the loss of each passing year, and I wish my memory were clearer, there’s always something new to love about the next stage.

Sometimes I take a step outside of myself and take a good look at my life now.  And you know what?  I like it.

I like the conversations I have with my kids and that they get my humor.

I like seeing them develop into their own little people with their unique interests and strengths and weaknesses.

I like watching them interact with their friends.  I like how they can put themselves to bed and clean up after themselves and go to the bathroom without my assistance.  There’s certainly something to be said for self-sufficiency.

They’re actually fun to hang out with — sometimes, anyway.  But my guess is, it just gets better and better.  My son is almost 11, and I’m struck by how much I enjoy him — not in the way I enjoyed my babies and my preschoolers.  It’s different.  It’s almost like a peer at times; but of course, it’s not.  But you parents of older kids, you get what I mean.  Sometimes our eyes connect over top of my youngest daughter’s head when she is saying something cute, and we smile together in mutual understanding and amusement.  And I love it when he says something witty; it always catches me off guard.

My middle child is 7, and I love to hear talk enthusiastically about her day at school, her accomplishments on the playground, and her latest project (she ALWAYS has a project going; she’s my artsy creative one.)

I’m hoping that it only gets more and more fun as they continue to develop into their own little people with their own interests and talents and abilities.  I may not have a squishy baby or a sturdy preschooler anymore, but I’m gaining friends.

Some day soon (and I have no delusions; it will be SOON) they will up and go off to college and then to a job and hopefully a family of their own.

I think I’m ready.  (At least, I’m ready to face middle school.)