My “baby” is 10. Going on 10 and a half. His voice hasn’t changed yet, but I know it will in the next year or so, just like his older brother’s voices changed.
Sometimes he still seems so much like a little boy. Giving me hugs, playing with his toys. And other times I see the teenager about ready to emerge, with video games and telling me he really just wants to play with his friends.
I think back to years past when having a park playdate was the best way to pass the time. I would meet up with friends, and our kids would play. This started back when my now 16-year old was a little over a year old meeting up with friends at the play area in the local mall.
Park playdates become a staple of the toddler, preschool, and childhood years. You learn where the best parks are, and the ones that aren’t worth the drive. You figure out which ones have the best places to sit so you don’t feel like the sun is bearing down on you while the kids play. And the parks by the Starbucks are always a hit.
And now, with the ages and stages my boys are, I realize the park playdate years are over. This isn’t to say that my boys would never enjoy a park again because I am sure they would. But I highly doubt I will ever make plans to meet a friend and her kids at a park to play, especially with COVID still being in our future.
As I think about 2022, a year which I hope is normal again, my son will be 11, headed to 12. He will be entering middle school and so much about childhood will slowly drift away.
He will stop playing with so many toys, and opt for electronics. He will grow taller than me and will lose that little boy’s voice. And I will stand by watching another of my boys make the leap from childhood to the teen years.
I get so very emotional about this time with him, even though I have already been through this stage a few other times. The days are long, but the years, they are short and before you know it you hit a different stage. And there is just something about your youngest child hitting the teenage years that makes you realize how fast time really goes.
And so, as I reflect about those park playdate years, I realize we had our last one and didn’t even know it. We said goodbye to a big part of our lives, and moved on, without any of the fanfare.
And such is the truth of childhood and raising children. When they are babies, you hit the big milestones. Watching them learn to walk, to run, and potty train. You take them to their first day of kindergarten and watch them learn how to ride a bike.
But other milestones hit quietly, taking you to the next stage, without you even noticing. And these are the milestones that you look back on, realizing time has changed, realizing that you have moved on.
I have always tried to embrace every stage, knowing that some will be more difficult than others. Knowing that I will miss some and be glad to move on from others. Knowing that each stage is a move towards my children living their own lives away from me.
As I sit here writing this, next to my 10-year-old. I hope that I can embrace the next few years of transition for him. That he will still give me hugs, even when he is taller than me. That I will always be able to remember the child version of him, even as he grows into the man he will become.
We had our last park playdate and I didn’t even know it.