‘It’s one of those days you talk about when they are babies. . . . “She will be in 1st grade when he is in 4th.’ ”
This is what my daughter Julie wrote on her Facebook page last week under the pictures of her children, Adam and Charlotte, posing in their front yard on the first day of school.
Facebook was full of pictures of big and little kids shyly grinning and of moms and dads writing “Look who’s excited to start her first day of school!” and “Yes, that is a tie!” and “Where does it go? Feeling old!”
I wrote words like this once. I wrote whole columns about two and four, and one and six and eight. All the stages. Every stage. When he’s in high school they will be in second and seventh grade. When she is in high school they will be grown and gone.
I played this math game, too, but never really believed in the numbers, never imagined that the years would not only catch up with my calculations, but leap over them and continue on.
My children have been adults for longer than they were kids. They have lived away from me for longer than they lived with me. Now I am watching their kids racing through childhood. “Slow down,” I think. But time does not pause.
It tricks you, though. Children trick you. You think that they will stay little for such a long, long time because sometimes a single night with them can feel like eternity. In the dark when you’re tired and the baby is awake and hungry and the 4-year-old wets his bed and the 6-year-old has a stomach ache. And you have to feed one and change the other and comfort the child whose stomach woke her. And work looms and it’s one more day to get through without sleep, and you think, “Will this ever end?”
And it doesn’t. Not for years.
But then it does. It ends with a letter from a college saying “Congratulations.” It ends with a lease on an apartment. It ends with a job. A boyfriend. A girlfriend. It ends with a kiss and a hug and a “Don’t worry about me, Mom, Dad.”
When she is in first grade he will be in fourth, my daughter thought when Charlotte was born. But she couldn’t imagine Charlotte 6 and Adam 9, Charlotte going to school, Adam leading the way. Imagining children growing up, imagining them grown, is like thinking about infinity. You can wrap your brain around a few years, but not all the years. It’s impossible.
Why is this? You go on a vacation, to the Cape for a week, and right in the middle of day three, around lunch time, you think, it’s half over.
You have a child and he’s 9 and you don’t think, in the middle of his birthday, only nine more years.
But 9 is the midpoint of kid-dom.
We were at the Napoleon Room the other night — my other daughter, Lauren; her husband, Dave; their daughter, Lucy, who is 10; my husband and I. We were eating dinner and listening to music, a medley from “Peter Pan.”
“I Won’t Grow Up” began and my daughter said, “Didn’t we used to march around the house singing this song? I haven’t heard it in years.”
But she remembered the words. “I won’t grow up. I don’t want to go to school. Just to learn to be a parrot and recite a silly rule.”
“It’s one of those days you talk about when they are babies,” Julie wrote.
But when I talk to her about how she feels, she says that she doesn’t mind that her kids are getting big. She wouldn’t want to turn back time. But she is stunned that it happens so fast.
First day of school. It’s a big deal, a milestone. A time to reflect. A time to be grateful and glad.