My baby turned five on Monday. In another week, he starts kindergarten. I am an emotional wreck.
Just kidding. I’m not at all.
The older my sons get, the more I’m starting to realize that I have a very different view of my childrens’ maturation than most parents.
I see it on social media all the time. “Time slow down” as a caption for a child who just built a complicated lego set. “Where did my baby go?” on the Timehop featured photos.
I know that when the first day of school rolls around, parents all over my Facebook will post photos of their smiling kids in their new backpacks holding carefully crafted signs that say, “First Day of 3rd Grade”. And the parent will caption it with a trail of crying-face emojis.
My boys are starting kindergarten and 4th grade this year.
My kids’ first day back will probably involve me getting halfway out the door before remembering that good mothers take first-day photos, so I’ll hastily shove the kids together by the front door.
Inevitably, one or both of our German Shepherds will walk in front of the kids as I snap the photo, which will annoy me for a nano-second before I remember that we chose to adopt that particular breed because of their obsessive devotion to children, so dog butts are just going to be a part of all our photographs.
The kids won’t be holding any signs, which I’m sure will frustrate me when I’m 89 and looking back at the picture with no grade-level reference point, but for now, tempus is fugiting.
When we get to school, I’ll see all the other moms that are crying- legitimately crying- and I’ll feel a pang of guilt for not feeling any emotional torment over the fact that my children have progressed to the next grade level.
I’ll kiss my precious boys and say, “I love you; have fun; be good; I can’t wait to hear all about your first day when you get home”, and then I’ll drive off.
There will be no tears from either party. My children will be halfway to their classrooms before I even finish my farewell sentence.
I used to think there was something wrong with me for not experiencing sadness in those moments of acute awareness that my children are growing up.
I tried to reason it out. Maybe I didn’t suffer because I used to be a stay-at-home-mom, and those nine years I devoted exclusively to raising my children gave me so much time with them in their tiny years that I didn’t look back on it and miss it.
But many of the mothers crying in the carpool line are/were stay-at-home-moms, too.
Maybe it’s because I just prefer big kids to babies.
That’s possible, but even I’ll admit that there’s nothing in the world like snuggling a tiny baby- the way they ball up into you and smell like Heaven. I’ll treasure that for the rest of my life.
No, I think that my lack of inner turmoil over my growing children is really just that I have an entirely different perspective on growing up.
For me, watching my child sprint across the yard doesn’t summon a sadness inside me as I long for the days when he was an immobile lump.
Now that I’m able to carry on thought-provoking conversations with my kids, I don’t miss the days when they gurgled incoherently at the ceiling fan.
My nine-year-old is able to have some pretty deep philosophical discussions with me, and his sense of humor is becoming legitimately hilarious.
Even the five-year-old is truly interesting to talk to sometimes.
Sure, the vast majority of our conversations are about Pokemon battles, but the other day out of nowhere, we ended up having a discussion about whether or not an object can be “real” if it’s not alive, because, by his reasoning, only living creatures can effect change. (He made this observation by watching the cat smack a ball off the table and realized that without the cat, the ball would have made no change.)
Five seconds later, he threw a book across the room, so I’m not suggesting he’s the next Sir Isaac Newton, but my point is that it’s hard to experience those moments and then cry because the time when he pooped his pants is over.
Maybe my insight is not really all that rare, and there are a multitude of parents out there that rejoice in their kids’ growth without reservation. Maybe the parents who lament their childrens’ maturation are just a loud minority, and plenty of other parents out there are watching their kids spread their wings with smiles of pride instead of tears of loss.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think one type of parent is better than the other. I certainly don’t smirk at parents that truly struggle to come to terms with their aging children.
We feel what we feel, but we all love our kids.
I just think it bears mentioning that it’s also OK if you don’t feel sad.
Maybe one day I’ll change my perspective. Maybe one day it will hit me in a very visceral way that their infancy is gone forever, and there’s no abatement from the crushing reality that my sons will be grown and out of my home in the blink of an eye.
But truth be told, I hope not.
Claire Goodman is the managing editor of Katy Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org