When my kids were younger, I confess I pitied moms of older kids. It seemed to me that as friends' kids got to be about 7 or 8, the kids became louder, not quite so adorable, and frankly, kind of annoying. When my oldest started Kindergarten, I mourned. I knew we were entering a new stage in life, and that my daughter would change in some amazing ways, but I knew that she would soon be almost unrecognizable from the toddler/preschooler I cherished so much, and I dreaded it.
I knew I would love my kids as they grew older, but what I didn't know is that these years would bring their own magic that would sweep me up completely, leaving me to wonder how I ever could have thought that the preschool years would be my favorite.
My older two kids are 8 and almost 7, and they have opened up a whole new world of parenting and family for me.
1. Sharing Hobbies
This picture was the absolute highlight of my two weeks of Christmas break. Last winter I fell in love with cross-country skiing, and this winter we bought stuff for the kids so that they could learn as well. Over the break, my husband and I took them to a local trail we love to ski, and I felt like my heart was going to explode with happiness. "Here I am, doing what I love! And my kids are loving it too!" I kept sneaking glances at them, their flushed and happy faces, their quiet concentration - surrounded by our beautiful Alaskan trails - and I truly couldn't imagine a happier place to be.
2. Watching Them Learn is Amazing
While of course I cherish the memories of those first shaky steps toward walking, watching and listening to the things they learn as older kids is so cool. The other day, my 6-year-old and 8-year-old, who are in a 1/2 combo class together, were having a conversation about supply and demand and I swear it was the cutest thing I've ever heard. Beginning with learning to read, and moving on up through multiplication and division (and supply and demand) I have been endlessly fascinated to watch them learn these big-kid skills. Just watching how their brains put information together, process it, and internalize it - both of them so different in their learning - it never gets old for me.
3. Playing Games
I love that the kids are old enough to play games that the whole family can legitimately enjoy. Our family just discovered Ticket to Ride and Apples to Apples Disney, and we've been having so much fun. The games don't end in tears, there's no careful calculations on the parenting pros and cons of "letting" them win Candyland - just fun. Together.
4. Long Conversations on the Beach
Not really on the beach. But I LOVE talking to my kids now that they're older. The other night at bedtime tuck-ins, my (always-stalling) 8-year-old and I had an in-depth conversation on teacher's unions, health insurance, and career choice. And then sometimes we're just silly and laughing, and sometimes I'm hearing about their day, down to the last detail. But I can get lost in conversations with them in a way that's brand new, and something I hope I have at least 50 more years to enjoy.
5. Just this:
"I'll take the yellow cup. I don't care what color I have." I fall to the ground in worship.
6. Sharing Books & Music
My own kids aren't quite old enough for this year, but my 10-year-old cousin is a reader, like me. I love curling up on the couch with her and looking for new books on Goodreads, reading the same ones at the same time, and discussing them afterwards. My kids and I also like the same music, and rock out together to our favorite Pandora stations. Shhhhh.... I'm a terrible parent in what I let my kids listen to. I did feel vaguely ashamed last night when my kids and I were all dancing and singing to lyrics that included, "Says she won't, but I bet she will." Uh, whoops. And let's not discuss Blurred Lines.
7. They Get Funny
Sarcasm and teasing are some staples of our family dynamics, and as my kids get older, they're definitely learning! Listening to them play with language and come up with jokes that are actually funny, make a hilarious remark with perfect comedic timing, or lovingly tease me about all the naps I take - while both my big kids were funny as preschoolers, they are getting downright hilarious now.
8. They're Still Adorable
How could I have thought older kids weren't cute? They may be getting less cute to strangers and acquaintances, and I'd be lying if I said that my precocious 4-year-old doesn't captivate every crowd, but my older kids are at this beautiful stage where I can still see the little people they were, and I can catch a glimpse of the big people they are going to become. Which leads me to....
I love watching my kids grow into themselves. What sports and activities do they choose? One is obsessed with sports and learning to play hockey, the other loves fashion and carefully plans out each accessory. Who do they hang out with at school? How do they handle challenges? What do they think about social issues? I feel now, more than ever, I am starting to glimpse my kids as tweens, as teenagers, as adults. I feel like I'm getting to know them as people. And pretty cool people, at that.
What a gift of parenting, yes? To think that every stage is the best? I anticipate some challenging years ahead, but I know that these guys will continue to grow and amaze me in ways I could never now imagine. But for today, I feel like I'm in parenting nirvana. Though I have probably just jinxed myself, and tomorrow will end with a foot-stomping, sobbing tantrum of epic proportions. Because those still happen.