My husband and I spent the weekend rearranging furniture. By the end of Sunday we had reclaimed another square-inch of space of Lego storage from our children. We promptly put a plant there and much like brandishing a flag and claiming land for the Queen, we staked our claim as adults.
Sitting in our increasingly grown up living room with a glass of wine, we agreed that our lovely Danish apartment is likely the nicest place we are ever going to live.
As I looked around, I thought the same thing about our children, who were nowhere in sight. No longer babies or even pre-schoolers prone to a sulk but not yet teens, I know my husband and I are sitting pretty in the sweet spot of parenting.
My kids are 11 and almost 8 now; old enough to be as independent as I need them to be and yet still young enough that we haven’t started worrying about the big, bad teenage years that lay ahead.
Not only are they taking up less space with their toys, they can work the toaster. They can pour milk into a cereal bowl without spilling half a gallon onto the floor. They can, most of the time, even put the milk back into the fridge. All of this means that my husband and I don’t have to get up on a weekend morning if we don’t need to. Sometimes we stay in bed until 10.
10!! I remember a time when 6 was a far off dream.
They can entertain themselves. Sure, they need guidelines and reminders that there is life beyond a screen, but there’s no more crouching for minutes that felt like hours on the floor or setting up craft projects or trying to act interested in Playmobil knights storming the castle. And though there are times I miss that, it’s a subject for another post. Remind me later.
The older one gets himself to and from school, to and from football practice, to and from friends houses. Sure, he still leaves his clothes wherever they fall and has to be reminded to brush his teeth on a daily basis, but hey, you can’t have it all.
The little one is finally fluent enough to read books that take him a few days. He’s developed interests outside of mine, outside of his brother’s and is striding toward independence himself. He can get himself a piece of fruit is he’s hungry. A glass of water when he’s thirsty. And nine times out of ten, he doesn’t even spill it.
Day-to-day life right now doesn’t feel so fragile. Free time doesn’t feel so desperately longed for and hoarded. Gone are the days when a shower or a trip to the supermarket counted as a tally mark on the great spread sheet of alone time (don’t pretend you didn’t/don’t keep track…). Nowadays my husband and I leave the kids on a Saturday morning and go to the grocery store alone together. The other day I exclaimed that it was almost like going on a date.
We can have almost whole conversations. Conversations with four letter words even. Yes, I can swear in front of my kids now. They’re old enough that I expect them to respect the difference between me as the eff-ing grown-up and themselves, the lowly offspring. I’m not walking around eff-ing this and eff-ing that, but I don’t have to be so careful not to let fly a few choice words when I…say…drop something on my foot. But the swearing thing is a subject for another post. Remind me later.
I know that soon my big one will be staring down the barrel of puberty. He’ll want to go and do something dumb, like grow up. He’ll want to go out on dates and get a driver’s license and probably drink cheap alcohol and throw up in some bushes. There will be heartbreak and sex talk and…can you see why I’m relishing this time right now?
Babies are yummy and delicious and they squidge into you all cuddly and warm like cookie dough just out of the oven. But they’re a lot of work. Toddlers are hilarious and it’s amazing watching those chunky little flesh balls take the shape of a real live person with a personality all of their own. But man, the constant vigilance and supervision and redirection? Exhausting.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the only minute of the day to sit down and relax was the sixty seconds in between getting the kids to bed and passing out on the couch. But now…now I have whole half-hours of time. Hours even.
Why right now they’re in a whole different part of our lovely apartment playing Wii with a friend while I type this out.
In another few years it’ll be a girlfriend in there instead of a friend. And I’ll have to open the doors in between me and them instead of shutting them. Instead of waiting for them to turn the lights out at 9 so that I can watch grown up television they’ll be going out at 9 and that will bring a whole new level of stress to the game.
But that’s still a way off.
Right now I’ll just enjoy the calm of the moment. Of being in the sweet spot. In my increasingly grown-up apartment with just a little less Lego and a little more breathing room. And wine, of course.
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Smart thinking. I have a feeling, though, that you’ll handle the older years beautifully, too. 🙂
Oh, don’t give me too much credit. Writing about it in hindsight is one thing. Living it is something else entirely!!
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Yes, the swearing is a relief… and a release. I’m still not crazy about it when they do it (my 14-year-old still forebears but her 20-something siblings let fly) but it adds some needed emphasis sometimes.
Oh, I know. I have a mouth like a sailor who picked up a second career as a truck driver. My kids are (understandably) fascinated by the whole concept of ‘words that shall not be said”, so we gave them a 2 minute amnesty one night to go ahead and say whatever they wanted to. It seems to have worked for now—they haven’t been nearly as keen to let lose a good curse since. At least not within my earshot.
“Here, smoke this cigarette…” I get it. I bet they’ll remember that. Ha!
Now that is parenting old school. My grandmother did that to my mother. “You want to smoke? Smoke this pack. One after another.” Didn’t work–she still smoked 😉
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Never forget the wine!!
As if! 🙂
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I just LOVE reading your stuff-!!
My daughter turned 18 yesterday and will graduate in June…freedom! But the bittersweet freedom of knowing our paths are about to split and life will suddenly get quiet.
See, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s GOOD right now. They can wipe their own butts and even remember to wash their hands afterward but they’re still…..here. I can still tuck them in and kiss them goodnight when they are sleeping (and sometimes even when they’re awake). I know where they are and most of the time it’s not up my ass. Good times.
Are Lego less expensive there in the land of Lego? Is there a Lego outlet? (Not that we want/need anymore – lord help us!) They are ungodly expensive here in France!
Nope. If anything, they’re probably more. nothing more ironic than having to have Lego shipped to Denmark from the US!
It is so hard when you’re in the daily grind of parenting to be able to raise your head above the parapet and look around objectively. Every parent wants to claim *this* age or *that* age is the hardest, but if there is a sweet spot then you are probably in it.
My two are each about a year older than yours, and I am actively enjoying this time when they still don’t mind being seen with you in public, and before puberty, exams, boyfriends, social media, curfews, 3am taxi missions and whatever else life has in store for us.
Nature is giving us a pause after the initial chaos and before the complications of pre-adulthood, and that’s well worth raising a glass to.
(Even if I’m horrified that my son’s need for twice daily teeth brushing reminders may still be with us for years to come…)
I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have to call my son at college to ask him if he’s brushed his teeth. The calm before the storm— a rather worrying concept, no? I suppose we’d better rest up as much as we can…