Milestone moments: When kids (and parents) enter new phases

New Beginnings, conflicted feelings…

“Put me down!” she said.

“But I just want to look at you.” I squeezed her hard, spun her around to the semi-melancholic soundtrack of her (current) favourite film, Inside Out. She’d woken early, and the boys were still sleeping. I could see she was tired, but too restless to go back to sleep, so as a once off (okay, not that once off, but not an every-day occurrence either) I’d offered her movie-time in the morning.

“You can still see me when you put me down!” she stuck her stubborn triangle chin out at me and I relinquished her to the floor once more, to stand on her own two feet without me.

The kid had a point. She was getting bigger and I didn’t pick her up like this as often any more. But what she didn’t know was that I was nervous about this day too. Though probably for different reasons.

She was nervous about going back to preschool after the long summer break, entering a new class, upping her attendance from two days to three. I was nervous about the fact that the baby I had just held yesterday (or so it seemed), our firstborn, our trailblazer, our sensitive one, was now entering another year of change. First preschool, then primary, then the teenage years, then, and then, and then…..My overactive imagination was in overdrive.

Could she feel time moving as quickly as I could?

Probably not. I remember being a kid, time stretched long and loose. Moments ran one into another, free and unrestrained. Blessedly unreflective. Unconflicted.

Not so as a parent.

And these milestone moments, it’s then we feel the inconsistency most.

The desire to hold on, and the need to let go.

And yeah, it’s not the big one. Not yet. That’s next year.

SCHOOL. Just the single word fills me with both excitement and trepidation.

I have friends facing this mega-milestone for the first time in a matter of days. Letting their little people go a little more. I see how it pulls their heart-strings by the strain on their faces.

But this change is big enough for me, like a dress rehearsal. And some thoughts that cross my mind are good. Like, I’ll miss her on these days. All the idiosyncracies that make her her and that help make our home our home. Her excited, high-pitched, laugh-out-loud storyteller-dramatist voice as she plays, her constant request for snacks, her to-and-fro with her brother. 

And some thoughts that come calling are not so good. And like clock-work my inner perfectionist-parent sees an opportunity open and slinks on in to comment. I wonder if you’ve done enough to prepare her for this. I wonder what she’s like in the classroom? Is she as good as the other kids, as well-behaved, as well-adjusted. As kind. Could you have done more, so that when she walks out the door, she’s walking tall?

And when the movie ends and the lunchbox is packed, and she’s dressed, and her curly hair has been brushed semi-smooth, and it is time to walk out the door into the new day she crys loud and passionate and trys to hide under my desk because the fear of newness overwhelms her. And I want to cry as well. Because I feel it too.

Fear of the unknown.

And as a parent you experience it doubly, feeling every blow, for them, and for you.  

Whether you’re a child heading off to preschool, or school, or a mum or dad sending them out the door, we all feel it. Life’s unending sweep and sway.

And sometimes we want to press pause, and savour the moment, pull all our favourite bits close like I pulled E. close this morning, and hold on tight, and other times we want to press fast forward, glide seemlessly over the humps and bumps that trouble us, that make being a parent, or a child, or a …human…on this road of life difficult.

When really, all we can do, is to receive it all, the good and the bad, the quick and the slow, with gratitude.

We can’t stop time, or speed it up, or slow it down.

But we can open up the door. And wait to see what happens next.

And in the process make some new memories.


Impacted by these words in some way? I’d love to hear you’re thoughts.