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I never realised how much I’d miss my little kids (so much)

I never realised how much I’d miss my little kids (so much)

There’s a strange emotion I’m grappling with now that I’m at the pointy end of parenting: where did those little kids go?

My eldest moved out to university at the beginning of the year. My middle is doing her HSC this year and my youngest (gulp) has just chosen her HSC subjects for year 11 next year. You could say we’re on the other side of the mountain and our brakes aren’t working!

But it’s not the unexpected suddenness or how quickly we got here. Our kids have been growing up far too quickly for years. Rather, I’m grappling with the fact that I will never meet them at those ages and stages again.

Bron Maxabella's little kids

They have grown away from all the little people they once were. The baby, the toddler, the school starter, the questioning tween, even the surly young teen… So many tiny ways of seeing the world that bloom for a season only. The jolt of realising that I will never get to hold their sticky little hand in mine again (heaven help us if the big hands are sticky!!). Or tuck them gently into bed with a favourite lullaby (how long has it been since I’ve sung Lior’s Gypsy Girl, my youngest’s nightly lullaby, year after year – and when did I stop?). Those small faces asking questions that were bigger than life – “but why don’t grown-ups skip?”

“Why don’t teens skip?” I want to say now. We seem to one day leave skipping behind until eventually we even forget how. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we love little kids so much – they help us find our skip again.

You see it as a slide projector, don’t you? Skimming along through the years, illuminating snapshots of joy-filled faces, tipped in love. A whirling kaleidoscope of moments that went by in a blink but echo forever. They are one, they are three, they are six and then 11. Or they are two, then five and now ten. Today mine are four, six and seven… 

Lottie at four was irresistible

… in the golden years, we used to have what we called ‘bed club’. It began as my stealth mission to get a lie-in and evolved into the highlight of my day (/life) for quite a different reason.

In they’d all pile, arms and legs fighting for space and talking a mile a minute. Someone would declare that ‘bed club is open’ (always in a dramatic voice) and we’d suggest what the day ahead might have in store for us. Not for us an average day of school or work or errands. Instead, we’d dream up big plans that became increasingly lofty and ridiculous (“Once the spaceship lands, we’ll eat our chocolate and raspberry sandwiches…”).

I miss that ridiculousness and the energy and giggles it needed to thrive. Oh, how I miss that giggling, rising and falling to create a melody I know by heart. 

Where do they go?

For a while there, Max was the boss simply because he was the eldest. Their games took on a magical-Max kind of shine. They formed the ‘Extra Wiggly’ band and played homemade instruments. Or pretended to be Lightening McQueen and the gang, running around and around the house in circles with me supplying pitstop high-fives as required.

For a long time they played a game where they were “Dancing Unicorn”, “Dancing Rainbow” and “Dancing Baby”, dressed up in the Mr Potato Head spectacles. I would invite them to dinner because my own children had mysteriously disappeared (Dancing Rainbow ate all his peas, unlike his missing friend Max).

Then, when I wasn’t looking, they grew up. As children must, I suppose. Whose ridiculous idea was that?

It's hard when you realise they will never be quite that person again

By age 10 Arabella was having none of the Max-boss business. “Don’t leave me here with that maniac!” she screeched one morning when I said I was ducking to the shops. The maniac in question was her 11-year-old brother and, well, that was fair enough. Off to the shops for milk we all popped, returning with an unexpected litre of chocolate milk and three very happy children.

It’s fair to say I’ve clung to Lottie’s littlehood far more than she’d probably like. It was a trick of fate that my youngest would really be my oldest. She’s been 21 years old since the age of four. Every year on her birthday I have to do the maths because I’m positive she’s already been 15 for at least six years now.

My Lottie girl turns five

Every birthday, there I was, trying very hard not to bawl my eyes out. Wanting to share their happiness at reaching a bigger age, but failing miserably. I tried to snapshot their bright, beaming face, lit by pride and too-many candles. Stay little, my head whispered as my voice sang the happy birthday song. Please, stay little for just a bit longer.

Alas, a mother never gets her birthday wish. Instead, we are gifted a pair of rose-coloured glasses so we can look back at our children’s wonder-filled, joyful, magical childhood… And presumably forevermore forget the sheer fucking relentlessness of it all.

slide projector by by Alexander Andrews; kaleidoscope by by Malcolm Lightbody