Sunday, January 8, 2012

Double-perfect: April 19, 2009

Some years are just better than others, and anyone who has embarked on long-term projects like marriage and parenthood knows that well. This column is from a time when I was really enjoying my kids and our family in a way that I hadn't before, largely because the hand-to-hand combat of the baby/toddler years was finally over. I know quite a few women who pine for the days when their kids were babies or toddlers, who miss that sweet, guileless, dependent phase.

Not me, friends. Nope.

How to have two magic years at one time

As a young newspaper reporter in North Georgia, long before I had kids or even a husband, I once spent the day with a third-grade class to write a feature about their new outdoor laboratory.
At the end of that day, I returned to the newsroom and reported to my boss: "Eight-year-olds are the coolest kids ever. They're big enough to be totally independent and have interesting ideas, but they're still small enough to think grown-ups are fun to hang out with."
Years later, as a young mom with one child who had recently turned 4 years old, I felt as if I had discovered the next-coolest age. After four years of relentless baby-toting and toddler-chasing, I finally had a kid. Someone who could dress himself and tell me what he was thinking and come up with silly jokes.
"This is a magic year," I told my mom a few months after that fourth birthday. "This is perfect."
Then a new baby came along, and I was pulled back into the vortex of baby-toting and toddler-chasing, this time with a big kid to keep up with, as well. The new baby made things interesting by being an exceptionally short-tempered little scrap of humanity, with a stubborn streak and a bottomless appetite for tantrums. We had a long few years. I don't remember much about them. There was a whole lot of sleep deprivation and frustration involved.
This year, however, I'm getting a double scoop of good karma as a reward. My sons are 4 and 8, and our family has hit the ultimate chronological sweet spot. The temperamental toddler has become an exceptionally engaging and independent 4-year-old. He's still stubborn and a tad volatile, but he has turned some developmental corner that allows him to get it together when he absolutely must. He's hilarious, goofy, brave and -- best of all – potty-trained.
Meanwhile, our 8-year-old has become an excellent little golfer, an entertaining dinner companion, an enthusiastic student and a sweetheart of a big brother. My mom is always angling for a chance to spend the day with him because he's just such a blast. He's only about a head shorter than I am. And, people, he can make his own breakfast.
I know from painful experience that as soon as you get used to whatever phase your kids are in, they change -- a lot and fast. Most of the time I've been pretty philosophical about that inevitability. Change is OK with me.
This year, however, I would really like to spend about a decade in this exact place on our family's evolving timeline. Do you remember that pop song from the '90s? 'Right here, right now. There is no other place I want to be.' That's me.
Of course, that song I remember so vividly is now 18 years old. And before I know what happened to my little boys, we'll be fording the churning waters of adolescence, cringing our way through middle school and fighting bitterly over the fact that I am committed completely to the belief that 16 is two years too young to drive.
While I know each of my sons will probably have another magic year or two, I really don't know if we'll ever again get two all at once.
So I want it on record: I will never say that I should have appreciated this year more.  I know a good thing when I see it. And I am relishing every single moment of this double-perfect year.
4+8 = yay

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