I Hate It When My Kids Grow Up

We reached a milestone at Amy’s House yesterday. My own children no longer have a cubby space in the playroom.

Not that this is a big deal for them. In fact, my boys would be appalled if they knew I was writing about it, because they should never be even vaguely associated with anything day-care-related. And they hadn’t used the cubby for over a year – it still had Younger’s first grade folder and projects in it. And a lot of dust, and a few stray rubber bands, and at least ten pencil top erasers, a couple of unidentifiable chunks of crud, and a bunch of broken crayons.

The detritus of early childhood.

Hold on, I have to go get a tissue.

It was a space that once actually held diapers and clothes for Younger, since he was born into the day care, and spare clothes for Older, who never stayed dressed in the same ones for more than two hours.

And as they grew out of diapers and stopped getting naked at random times all day long (wait, that still happens), the cubby started holding pencil boxes and maze books and dinosaur stamps from goodie bags. It was a place for them to hide their own stuff, just like everyone else in the day care had.

And then they lost interest, and I took on another child who needed a cubby, and I had to ask for their space. Younger didn’t really care but Older took exception. It was not so much possession of the cubby as it was marking his territory. That was something in the day care that had HIS name on it and now he has to give it to someone else? “Which one?” (Seriously, that’s what he wanted to know.)

Besides the SpongeBob folder and folded-up secret language notes, I found a picture from our trip to Washington DC just two short years ago. Somehow, by some trick of time, Older still had a bowl cut and baby fat on his cheeks. He leaned into me for the picture, half-posing, half getting a snuggle from his mommy. Now he’s a tall, thin-as-a-rail pre-adolescent dealing with middle school, deodorant, and the girls who have crushes on him. Why do you do this to us, o thou cruel Mother Nature? What did we do to offend thee so heinously?

It is funny that the kids were bothered as much as I was by emptying the cubby. They know they haven’t used it and I need it, so that’s not the issue. I think it’s the part of them that realizes they’re growing up, that scary/exciting pull of losing your little-kid-ness. Having to be tough and courageous when you really want to stay in bed hiding under the covers with mom. They recognize that losing the cubby is one more step toward moving on.

Still, they LOVE to tease me when I tell them to stop growing. “There’s nothing you can do about it!” they tell me, loving the fact that I’m helpless against something. But I do think, despite making fun of me, they feel a little sad about it too.

Older just finished his last year at elementary school (notice I haven’t written ONE word about 4th grade graduation, that’s a little thing we call denial, my friends) and will be off to big kid school in the fall. He’ll be riding the bus, not walking with us anymore. Younger knows this, and he’ll be missing not only his brother but all his other friends (Older’s friends who have adopted Younger as their own).

So I guess this end of an era reminds me of the same old lesson I always have with my kids – savor every moment. One of my clients (the Tornado’s mom) said that when your kids are little, the days may be long, but the years fly by. I try to enjoy all those days, because we just went to Washington DC yesterday, and tomorrow he’ll be asking for my car keys.

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