I’m generally not the kind of parent who cries over my kids getting older. I didn’t feel sad on my firstborn’s first day of preschool, or her first day of kindergarten. Truth be told, I was actually kind of glad. When she started preschool my belly was big with baby #2, and I needed some time a few days a week to keep sane. When she started kindergarten I had a special needs toddler and baby #3 on the way, so yeah. It worked well, because she was a very independent child, and rather than clinging and crying for me at these milestones, she just said, “See you later mommy,” and walked away.
Recently my husband and I went out to lunch and we saw a young couple at another table with a baby in a rear-facing car seat (you know the kind you can snap in and out of the car that doubles as a carrier). At some point in our time together he pointed at them and said, “Don’t you miss those days?” My response, “Hell no.” I’m so happy to be done with car seats, diapers, potty training; done with talking to my kids in that distinctive “grown-up-to-little-person” tone of voice. I have enjoyed my children more as they have gotten older, as I can share more ideas and experiences with them, have more complex conversations with them, and don’t have to worry about baby-proofing or having breakables out and about the house. But every once in a while, something will come along and my response surprises me. One of those things happened the other day.
On Friday, my son’s school had their annual Halloween parade. All the kids in his K-4 school march around the school in their costumes while a loving crowd cheers them on. Right before my husband and I left home to go watch the parade, I realized this would be our second-to-the-last Halloween parade EVER. He’s in third grade now, and next year when he’s in fourth grade – that will be IT – because the middle school doesn’t have a parade. I was shocked by how sad I felt that after next year all our kids will have aged out of this major ritual. I’m sure he’ll still dress up and trick-or-treat, but the parade will be a thing of the past.
I find that these moments of grieving their childhoods hit me when I least expect it. It’s not the obvious “big” things that get to me – the first day of school, first sleepovers, first missing tooth. It’s the things I would never think of, like the way they might turn towards me to say something and suddenly look “different” than the day before, or a Halloween parade. You never know when it’ll hit you – but when it does you just have to roll with it – the conundrum of being a parent – practically from the moment they’re born, you start the process of letting them go.