"You think the life you have now is the only life there is. The one that's going to last forever . . ."
Kate has been morphing for awhile now, but I think she's pretty much transformed completely into a young version of what she will look like for the rest of her life. But it's not just the physical transformations that are so striking at this age. Kate's transformation marks a change in the entire family dynamic on so many levels.
For instance, on Sunday there was a noticeable difference in our home. I may have been the only one to notice, but it really hit me. Will, Elizabeth and Rachael played for hours, tying pillows to their bodies and banging into each other, making creations out of their magnetic toys, pretending, pretending, pretending . . . where was Kate? Reading in her room. That's not to say she spends all her time alone in her room, but somehow, at some point, she went from being Will's best play buddy to being more of a mother's helper, giving me knowing smiles when one of the "little kids" says or does something cute and funny. Now it's "us" and "them". And even though I love this new stage, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it this way. I am no longer the young mother of four young children. Our family and our life is changing just as much as Kate is.
These wide, fuzzy, invisible lines we keep crossing over without even knowing it - they change everything and nothing is ever the same again.
Just yesterday, Elizabeth begged me to get out the Halloween decorations. And there it was again. A cool aloofness. Kate wanted to help decorate too, and she did, but I could sense in her a feeling I remember all too well at that same age: wanting to feel more excited than you really did. Let's face it, with the passage of time and the onset of adulthood, the "magic" and innocence of youth wanes a little. The thrill and excitement on the faces and in the voices of Will, Elizabeth and Rachael were so reminiscent of Kate, Will and Elizabeth just a year or two ago. And it happens THAT fast. (Don't blink!)
Just six short years ago, Kate was a mere 1st grader, Will was a pre-schooler, Elizabeth was an infant, and Rachael was just an inkling. And I was still that young mother of young children, 33 years old. Just six short years ago. And now, all of a sudden, I feel like we are in the home stretch with Kate. Six short years in the opposite direction and she'll be gone. Gone! And Will will be 15, Elizabeth 12, and Rachael on the brink of turning 9. Only one child left in grade school, and she'll probably be too embarrassed to act excited about the Halloween decorations because of her cool big brother and sister (that's singular, because remember, Kate will be GONE).
And I will be 45.
When did I stop being that young mother of young children? Not that I'm old, but I'm pushing 40, and fast. And even though I still have a two-year-old (for six more days . . .), I don't spend my days going to the park with the other mothers and their toddlers anymore. My life gradually, almost imperceptibly, stopped revolving around library storytime and naptime years ago when the older children started school and teams and lessons, and the demands of the after school hours dictated that I get more of the housework and errands and paperwork done during the day. What happened to those days at home surrounded by little children that seemed to last forever?
You think the life you have now is the only life there is. The one that's going to last forever . . ."
This picture was taken just a little more than two years ago. The kids were 0-10 years old, and I was 36. So much change in so little time.
And here's my baby now . . .
. . . turning three next week, which means she can no longer pass for a baby.
It is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming. And that, my friends, is the daily dichotomy that is ever present with women who choose to be mothers.
It makes me want to savor every minute I've got with these children of mine. To keep reading those chapters with Kate, to always step away from making dinner for just a moment to watch Will do a trick on his Ripstick, to go around the block one more time with Elizabeth and Rachael on our bikes, seeing Elizabeth's bike tassles fly along with her curly hair, and hear Rachael call out to dogs, cats and neighbors with her cute little lisp.
Just like Katrina Kenison says, one day Kate and I were walking hand in hand across the street and I was reading her bedtime stories, now she helps me get Rachael to bed and we talk about mythology assignments. I love it, I really do. I think I will enjoy every stage in my children's development, it's just that there is no going back. All we have is NOW and THE FUTURE, and even though my now is wonderful and my future promises to be even better, leaving the past in the past still makes me a little sad.
What am I talking about? How do you think these guys feel? Knowing their third child is pushing 40 . . .
My mom turned 70 yesterday. SEVENTY! And that's a-whole-nother ball of wax, the opposite end of the stick, the other side of change and generations. I'd better quit while I'm ahead. Shouldn't be crying this early in the day . . .
Where will your family be in 6 years?