It’s not even halfway through the summer and it’s been a big one for the eldest of my babies. I’ve read that the 6th year is a pivotal one; something changes in the brain and the body and the soul and these tinies transform into kids. Little people.

First came the non-grandparental overnight (with a cousin) which went exceedingly well. Then there was the Maiden Kayak Voyage. Yes – all by himself. (Well, with papa  nearby in the boat offering instruction and encouragement). He took it out past a marker and turned it. Later that evening we celebrated with icees (#dairyfreefun?) and then he took the longest ride on his big bike sans training wheels. He finally got the confidence, taking it from road to grass and back again. He hopped off the bike and exclaimed, “that was so fun!”

Every day I watch this little guy transform into something bigger. While his development progresses, his personhood hasn’t changed, a concept I’m hardly able to grasp. He loves to be helpful – he gets it honest, from his daddy – and is constantly looking to assist. For two days he watched his dad and grandpa wash and then paint the deck only to pick up a roller and INSIST on taking a crack at it. Tonight his strong arms, tanned from these glorious days outdoors, pulled the kayak out of the water for his grandma (mostly by himself, the big STUD). I believe the time elapsed since he fell in at that very point on the dock as a one-year-old was close to .42 seconds. Less than the blink of an eye.

I recently read a blog on raising teens that stuck with me. She says, “The weird thing is, those tiny sweet precious littles you are raising? The teens are the same people, just bigger. That humor? Same. That personality? Same. Those tendencies and leanings and giftings? Same. Your quirky 6-year-old who loves science and animal husbandry? Same, he just gets bigger with a lower voice.” 

I can hardly imagine how he will tie up my belongings into knots as a teenager. I shudder to think of my Amazon bill if he continues to hunger after books at the same pace. (Can we afford two bibliophiles in one home?) But this little person is slowly – yet rapidly – becoming this big person, containing the same gracious qualities yet growing more skilled.

This summer those words have swirled around in the back of my mind crying out to me, begging me to hold these days as a treasure. He will not magically morph away into something else someday, these days are the stepping stones toward that future self. At 5 he’s not half of a 10-year-old, he’s fully and completely his 5-year-old self. What a beautiful, kind, thoughtful, sometimes infuriating self continues to be.

Having one boy at the tail end of the early childhood years and one just beginning that journey pulls the tension tight. On the one hand we survive with the mantra, “Life will look different in 5 years!” Yet, on the other side, these past 5 years have slid through my fingers. At times, I begin to realize this and I find myself grasping and clinging, which seems to be the worst possible option. It turns out that children are like those weird distraction toys from the 80’s filled with water in a tube-like plastic container. (Surely you remember those from that stellar description?) Like this:  The more you cling and squeeze and hold tightly, the more likely they’ll shoot right out of your hands. Instead I’m trying to attempting to live palms up, holding these children with a generous portion of humility.

As I sat on a patch of grass by the cool lake today and stared up to the clouds, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Sometimes I feel like my body can’t contain all that it feels when I catch even a small glimpse into the depths of my blessings. Who am I to be given these precious little lives in my home? To hear their giggles as they jump into the water. To watch them convince grandma to pick them up once again. To have them lay on the towel and warm up with the sun and declare to me not once, but twice, “mom, I love you.”

I can hardly fathom what “life will look different in 5 years”. To have Sir M the age of H Boy, steering kayaks and begging for another morning of fishing, quite simply makes my heart race in excitement while simultaneously attempting to freeze every possible variable that I can.Will I look back at this post in a mere 5 years and sob that I’ve not enjoyed the early years to the fullness that my heart can contain? Lord, I pray not.

The summer of five marks for me a new era of parenting – we move from wee littles into something bigger, slightly more mature and just as challenging (but in a new way). We begin to reap the benefits of the hard work in the early years – establishing a good sleep routine so that kids begin to go to bed without struggle. We can be thankful we started early, eating healthy foods regularly so they snack on more than just Wonderbread and Nerds. The efforts at growing patience and the ability to be entertained by crayons grow into quiet and uneventful lunches at a sit-down restaurant. (<- yes, this just happened. What a glorious day, today!)

In that sixth year we parents remove one hand, then the other from the back of the bicycle seat, hoping  beyond hope they don’t crash but recognizing that it’s part of learning to ride. It’s as formative to us as it is the children.

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