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.)

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35 Responses

  1. So well said! I feel the same, but never articulated it quite this way. There’s so much to appreciate at every age. My daughter is 13 and although I wanted to strangle her in the car this morning, I love having her as a friend. And, I love that my kids have a sense of humor, and are developing compassion and sensitivity. I, too, have a baby problem. Babies are like crack to me. I’m drawn from across a supermarket to the slightest gurgle or coo. Now that my baby is 7 and the shop has been closed, I can appreciate them more without mourning the loss of my babies who have become real people. The first five years were rough! Thanks for sharing this morning, I needed to “reappreciate” them today!

  2. love this. i’m doing the same with my 2-year-old — its my last year with a baby at home. i’m trying not to rush it and just savor it before its gone!

  3. Your post just brought tears to my eyes. It’s beautifully written and exactly, 100 percent, the way I feel, too. My baby is about to be four, and my older child is about to turn 8. I miss their “babyhoods” and I take every opportunity to snuggle and giggle with my preschooler–he still has that sweet voice and he is absolutely uninhibited in his laughter and his tears–but I love (and like) the people they are becoming. And my husband and I so enjoy being around them and doing stuff together. What a blessing to like your kids as much as you love them. I’ve decided that I don’t need any more babies until I get my grandchildren (and I’d better get grandchildren out of this whole deal), but that had better be way, way off in the future.

  4. I have been mourning the loss of my “babies” for years! They are now 15 & 16 and really will be leaving home in a few short years. This makes me sad and excited! But I can honestly say that I LOVE the teenage years. Don’t dread them!!! Work hard on those mommy/kid relationships now because it will pay off in the teen years! My oldest said last week – “Mom, why does everything have to be so hard?!” My reply “Because you had to go and grow up instead of staying 5 like we asked you to!”.

    Thanks for helping me to see other moms are going throught the same thing!!

    1. Thanks for that encouragement. Really. I do fear the teen years at times. I hope they turn out to be better than I expect! 🙂

  5. My eldest is almost a teenager (and she as all the associated hormones and spots too!), my next almost 11 and my youngest is almost 6 so no more babies here either!

    My daughters are great company and I love going into the city shopping for clothes. My kids “get” me MOST of the time and I love it 🙂

  6. Love this post!
    My baby is 6 and my girlie is 9, and I’ve been soaking up this elementary phase too. They still care what I think, but have their own thoughts too. We can actually go places spontaneously! And without 5 pounds of stuff to cart along with us! Really enjoying this phase of parenting

  7. Very well said! I am relishing the transition as my youngest is now in 1st grade & such a BOY, and not that young, cute preschooler. I also have an 11yo (almost 12), he is now in middle school, playing school sports, getting very independent, wise and so witty. The oldest just graduated college and has a job in NYC, so that makes that relationship like a whole other world!
    It is so great to celebrate and embrace each of the stages. I always look at what they are growing into and think how much I have to look forward to.

  8. Ah, you’re doing GREAT, J-L. Just b/c you are willing to transition, and to allow your kids to grow and become their own people — that alone will make this work SO much easier. And don’t believe all the horror stories off teenagers. The teen years are my favorite! You note how much fun it is to talk with your kids, reason with them, share jokes. I find this even more exciting in the teen years. Granted, teen years have their harrying moments, but I think the most important thing to do in teen years is to be able to forgive and to ask forgiveness. With little kids, they forgive instantly, you don’t even really need to apologize (and it’s so easy to, with a 4 year old who says, “It’s okay, mommy!”) and there’s hardly anything to forgive THEM for — they’re babies! I LOVE having almost-adults in the house who are so close to being my friends, and in whom I can confide to an extent. My 19 yo son is one of my favorite people in the world.

    And yes, four is just about the perfect, adorable age. I miss it.

  9. Honestly I’m totally not ready. We are in a big transition phase right now with one going to Kindergarten and one potty training. It is like I literally feel my babies slipping away from me and it makes me so… nostalgic. I know that I will adjust and get used to it and everything will be fine and we’ll move on, but right now, today, I’m a little sad about the whole growing up thing.

    1. Oh trust me, I have my moments. A few weeks ago, I was really mourning the passing of time. And then I hit this point where I realized the now really is pretty awesome too. 🙂

  10. You seem to be dealing with the transition well. I tend to have more mixed feelings. I truly have enjoyed each stage with my children. I love how smart and independent my older children are, and I love just talking and spending time with them. For me I miss that baby stage more, probably because I know my family is not complete and want to have 1 more baby. Hopefully once we have another one (several years down the road for us) I can be at peace with being done and happily celebrate each stage of their growing up.

  11. Your post almost brought tears to my eyes as well! My (only) child is 4 and at preschool and I love 4! I actually work as an assistant at his preschool and I plan on becoming a preschool teacher when he goes to elementary school. I am scared for when he gets older, but you know what? I thought I’d really be sad when he wasn’t a baby anymore, but I love love love the preschool years! I can only imagine I will love the elementary school years too. I also haven’t closed the door on baby #2 yet…
    Anyway, wonderful post! Enjoy your children 🙂 they are gods greatests gifts,


  12. What a great post. I personally, do not love the baby phase so much, but I am loving life these days with a 3 and 6 yr old. I wish the 3 yr old were completely potty trained but I can see that will be soon. I LOVE talking to my 6 yr old, seeing the wheels turn in his head, being able to discipline him more through reason and less through intimidation. Both my kids are still pretty affectionate and will generally come crawl into my lap when I ask them. I don’t think I’m really looking forward to them both being in school full time, I love my two days a week with Alex. He’s a blast, and even a good companion when I’m shopping and running around town.

    I’m not quite sure where I am right now because I have room in my heart for another child who has no parents, but DH is not with me in that yet. It may never happen and we may be done, but I think God has other plans. I’m not a big fan of the not knowing, either. But that’s where the trusting comes in.

  13. I loved this post. I am so encouraged by your description of what I have to look forward to. My son is turning 1 this Friday, so I completely identify with what you say about just getting used to one phase as the next phase begins….it really does happen so fast…

  14. I do not, at all, want to think of college. But my oldest is eleven, and I know what you mean about sort of having a peer and him getting my jokes. My youngest is four…next week he starts preschool. And I am not prepared for this “ending” of raising little kids. But I’m excited about the next book in the series of life…and so sad at the same time. Cuz all I did was blink cuz I was sooooooo tired….and here we are.
    This is a great post.

  15. The teen years will be a challenge, but once you get through that and the college years it will be fine. Once they are out on their own for a while you will long for them to be 4, 7 and 11 again. Those were the best times with my kids as well. My daughter is 27 now and bought her first house last year. My son is 26 and is planning a wedding for next year. Sometimes I just wish we could go back to those days…

  16. We’re always transitioning, aren’t we? and unfortunately sometimes we can either so look forward to the next phase (or dread it for some) that we don’t enjoy the now. And that’s what I think we end up regretting, that we just didn’t just say this is my life at this moment and I’m choosing to give and take the right now.

    As the mother of a 19 yo and 17 yo, I can say that the teenage years are just like any of the other phases – there’s good and bad and with girls there can be D-R-A-M-A – but I think the thing that concerned me the most was that this was a time where lifetime decisions could be made and could have significant impact and my simple hugs and kisses didn’t fly anymore (although they really do still need those hugs and kisses even if they won’t admit it!!) I’ve spent much, much, much more time in prayer during these years. And we have some great girls that I love to hang out with. They can make me laugh or be so frustrated like no one else! I’ve got one more year with our youngest here at home and then we’ll have an empty nest and that will be a bittersweet transition (sigh.)

  17. I hear you. This year when school started I had one who started his first, first day of middle school and one who started her last, first day of middle school. YIKES. That realization hit me hard! next year I have a high schooler! Yowza! But like you, I have enjoyed every minute and will continue to do so. I have loved every stage of parenting (some more than others) but really, this is the best! i get to be mom and friend. There is no greater joy!

  18. *sniff, sniff* As I think you know, my oldest just left for college. It is such a wonderful time of life, and yet, hard. I don’t do change well either. I miss her every day. I miss the way our family was last year. 🙁

    But I love four too!! One of my all-time favorite ages. 🙂

  19. Oh my gosh! I know exactly how you feel. I swear this could have come right out my mouth too. When I see my friends with babies I just have to hold them and cuddle them and then I think, I’m done with that. My kids are older and no more babies for us. I loved loved loved age 3. both of my kids are in elementary school this year. And that is so much fun but I realize that they won’t be little forever. I’m sad and excited all at the same time. I guess the only thing about looking forward to college is because I work for a university, if my boys go there, their tuition is paid for!

  20. Please stop….you totally had me crying on that one. 🙂 And with only a two year old, I am no where near “done”, as we’ll have more I am certain.

    But it does go fast doesn’t it? And I am sure you will be a wonderful mother even as middle and high school approach. 🙂

  21. What a lovely post. I read it and sat her thinking about how you just put my feelings that I haven’t been able to articulate into words.

    I read it to my husband, too. We both feel the same way. It’s always so bittersweet when you realize you’ve moved past a stage and age, and we’re trying really hard to relish every second, but it’s so easy to get caught up in what comes next.

    I think it hit home with me too because I have a 4 year old as well who just started preschool, and I swore that I would be so productive when he was at school, but all I really want to do is sit down and cry. I barely know what to do with myself when he’s gone.

  22. I am right there with ya. My sweet four year old reminds me daily that “I am almost five, then I’ll be six and then seven, but I’ll still give you sweet kissies” – it breaks my heart especially when you consider the terrible two’s lated approximately 27 months. He’s such a joy now. AND HE UNDERSTANDS REASON. It was a long road but he’s more like me than I care to admit. =)

  23. I was thinking about this the other day too because I KNOW there are no more babies coming from this womb and it’s kind of hard to come to that realization. Plus my 3 yr. old wants SO badly to be like his big brother is SO many ways that it reminds me that he WILL be, and all too soon… And my “baby”, well, she will be ONE a week from tomorrow and that is pretty surreal to me.

    But you’re right, every stage is to be savored so enjoy this one as much as you can! 🙂

  24. What a wonderful, sweet post. I just have one child who is 22 months old, and my husband and I were saying that it feels like he just turned 1. I am enjoying watching him learn and grow, but I also want to yell at him to slow down with all of that growing! I think this post should be sent to all the new mommies out there!

  25. I have 3 teenagers and an 11 year old…and guess what? I have come to realize that this time, right now, is my favorite time with my kids. You touched on it in your post when you remarked on how as they get older they are like “peers.” ( but not!) Don’t dread the teen years! Really! I love this time right now. My boys make me laugh hysterically and my 17 year old daughter and I are so close and life is good! (well…nothing’s all good all the time…but you know… that’s life in general, no? And it’s pretty darn good most of the time!)

  26. Darn it, Jo-Lynne. You made me cry. I am SO glad I came by to read now, and not on the EFX machine at the gym like I usually do.

    This was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I’m not there, completely, obviously, with Little being so… little. But with Big and Middle, I totally get what you’re saying.

    Thank you.

  27. I really like this post, Jo-Lynne. I’m still in the baby/toddler stage and I imagine I’ll be here for awhile, but I don’t like it when people say, “Just wait until they’re teenagers” with a roll of the eyes and a gruff sigh. I happen to think that I will like the teenage years. I refuse to buy the cultural message that “teenagers-are-ogres-who-hate-their-parents.” Why can’t the teenage years be fun, full of conversation and challenge and kindness? I think they can.

    P.S. I agree about four. FOUR is so much fun.

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