Y’all. My boys are nine and eleven now. NINE and ELEVEN. I could easily write 10,000 words on how I can’t believe this is even possible, but here’s the thing. While I loved them to bits when they were babies, with their little squidgy legs and the snuggliness of carrying them anywhere and everywhere, I am really, REALLY loving where we are right this very minute. They are old enough to be fully-functioning, totally interesting humans. They read novels, enjoy travel, hike for miles, and, sometimes, take the garbage cans to the curb. They have opinions on anything and everything, and their humor is sharp, smart and dry as a bone.
But for all this independence, age-appropriate maturity, and relative big-ness, they are still so freaking little. They still love to snuggle, they still sleep with stuffed animals, and they still, (when we’re really lucky…) refer to me as “Mama” and my husband as “Dada.” They think my dancing is awesome and their dad’s magic tricks are cool. They are just as happy hanging out with their family as they are with their friends. They don’t demand “space,” they don’t claim I’m “ruining their lives,” and they don’t slam doors. No one has gone Emo. Yet. Writer Julianna Miner referred to this time as "The Sweet Spot," and I couldn’t agree more.
This is why I want to take a page from one of the iconic villains of our time and freeze both my children in carbonite.
That’s right, I want to follow the excellent parenting model set by Darth Vader.
Okay, I know this is problematic. First of all, that carbon-freeze monolith-thingy looks really heavy. And the boys won’t be able to play baseball, fence or participate in the school musical. But still. It might allow me to hold on to this time just a little longer, to delay the inevitable for just a bit.
But here’s the thing with the inevitable: it will come no matter what. Ugh.
So here’s my real plan. I plan to enjoy every single second of this time. I plan to be as present as humanly possible, and revel in every hug, every kiss. I plan to curl up on the sofa and watch as many movies as a family of four physically can. I plan to smell their hair and the backs of their necks as often as I am able, without it turning weird. I plan to snuggle them up every single night, even if they’ve already put themselves to bed and been asleep for hours. I will wring every last drop out of this time, with the full, bittersweet knowledge that something else is coming, whether anyone wants it to or not. And I plan to experience it all so fully and so completely that it will fill up my emotional memory banks to their maximum capacity. That way, I can recall any piece of it, anytime I need to.
I know adolescence has its own beauty. I’ve seen it first hand. But a teenager’s job, literally their biological imperative, is to separate from their parents. Yes, this can be done in about a million different ways, from sweet to sour, but the end result is still the same. And that is a harsh reality for those left behind. My husband and I have always joked that, "One day these kids will grow up, and hopefully, they will leave,” but that joke is a lot funnier when your kids are four than when they’re eleven-going-on-seventeen. I can actually imagine it now. I can see my boys’ faces superimposed on the bodies of my friends’ kids who are in high school, or leaving for their college semester abroad, or moving into their first apartments.
So, until that time comes, look for us to travel as a tight pack of four. We are a friendly pack, and we play well with others, but when we retreat to our den, you might not hear from us for a while. We will let our boys go, little by little, as the time dictates (we’re not completely crazy, after all…), but we sure as hell aren’t going to rush it. In true yogi form, we are going to be in the moment, for every, precious, fleeting moment we are given.
And later, when they turn into giant, stinky, hairy, hormonal monsters, we’ll come up with a new plan, a different plan, a plan that likely involves separate dwellings and a Costco-sized crate of deodorant.
But for now, it’s all sweetness, all snuggles, all Mama and Dada, and all the goodness of nine and eleven.
NINE and ELEVEN, y’all.