This past weekend, Natalie hosted a sleepover for two of her closest friends. The way the schedules worked out, the girls were here for a full 24 hours, which normally I would say is A Bad Decision, given what I know about sleepovers and tween girls. But the extra time turned out to be a secret bonus: since the girls knew they had a big budget of hours to spend together, they didn't force themselves to stay up all night to make the most of every opportunity. Ergo, they slept from midnight to almost 7:00 AM, and they were a complete delight on Saturday instead of cranky zombies.
Also: they baked homemade mini donuts and then whooped it up with the sprinkles. Can't hate that.
It sounds funny, but at some point last year, I woke up to the fact that I'm a mom who's oldest kids are rapidly approaching the teen years. And I don't mean I gently woke up, as on a spring morning with the birds singing outside my window. I mean woke up like my alarm went off with its loud "BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP" and I simultaneously have a heart attack and win a gold medal for cartwheeling out of my bed and slamming the snooze button while doing the splits.
It was startling, is what I'm saying.
I think it snuck up on me because my focus has been fixed by necessity on the younger ones. The baby years are singularly absorbing, the toddler years are joyfully and exhausting. Natalie and Connor were mostly in the sweet spot, the easy and uncomplicated years between 6 and 10, when they are old enough to get dressed by themselves and brush their own teeth (theoretically), but they still want to be with you and they have awesome imaginations and they are completely unselfconscious.
I think I forgot they are changing too, even if it's at a slower pace.
But you know what? After I got over the heart-pounding moment of recognition, I found myself falling in love with the ages my kids are today.
Yes, Natalie is only 18 months away from high school. (I'm not really OK with that at all, but I keep saying it to myself to see if I will eventually get over the shock.) But she is still my girl, she is sweet and loving and responsible and generous. What's more, now she is genuinely funny (versus the knock-knock joke funny of second graders, which we all know is a special kind of torture) and she sends me cute emoji texts and she gets totally embarrassed when her friends follow me on Instagram, which is endearing.
Connor draws comics like it's his job right now (which he hopes it will be, someday), and he shares them with me and explains each panel so patiently. "And here he falls down and then it's all 'aaahhhh' and the bomb explodes and then this darkness is where the ninja dies.'" And I smile and nod and feign understanding. Because it's not about the drawing, it's about his imagination, right? And that I get that spades.
Just last week, I unearthed a bizarre belief deep down in my subconscious, which was: once we are mature, we stop changing. I have no idea where I got this, because I'm fairly certain no adult ever told me that. When I stumbled upon this belief and and held it up to the light, I laughed a while with God because - to live is to change. Even now, at 42, I'm shifting, evolving, learning, growing in my soul and my world view. And I love it. Change isn't always easy but it's exhilarating.
And so it is with my children. Change is constant. For sure, trying to keep up with the growth of four kids at once is like trying to watch four TV programs at the same time, as I often say. I'm bound to miss key twists in the plot, because there's only so much I can absorb at once.
But oh. To be on this ride. What a joy.
So as long as we're talking about change, let me ask you a question: how old are your kids and what is their bedtime? We are not an early-to-bed family, so generally, the kids all have the same bedtime because a. it makes it easy for us to enforce and b. we rarely make that bedtime anyway.
But it occurred to me this weekend that Natalie, at 12, probably doesn't need to aim to be in bed at the same time as Kieran, who is 3. At what age is it right to make the shift to a later bedtime?
(I'm going to post the same question over on my FB page, where there is usually more discussion. So if you want to comment there, feel free to hop over and join the conversation.)