So what I have not been doing in all my newfound freetime is writing this blog! Covering the class at my children's school came to an end a few weeks earlier than originally expected. On Monday, I started a new era of dropping the children off at school, then having three hours entirely at my disposal before picking them again. It turned out to be timed rather well, since I came down with a cold and then my daughter caught it, and then this weekend she's had a stomach bug... To sum up, knowing that I have three hours that I can spend in a vegetative state has been a most welcome thought.
Early reactions to the shift have included the utter thrill of getting in and out of the car without having to worry about anything more than my handbag and keys. Also going round the supermarket and feeling absurdly lonely. Rehabilitation might take longer than I thought...
My last day of school also marked my daughter's second birthday, and since then, she's continued at the school every morning without me and adapted beautifully. Of course, my last week was a transitional week, when both I and the new teacher were working together, so she had time to develop a rapport with her. Reportedly, she's asked for me a few times off and on, but it's not upset her, and every morning, she heads up the steps without a backwards glance (my son at least waits for my goodbye kiss). I am almost a little offended!
It's a huge thrill to see her old enough to go to the toddler class, the class that I helped to establish six years ago! I remember being just as thrilled when my son started, but in my son's case, part of that thrill was watching him hit the age that I was familiar with. After I'd got over the first shock of "Babies are Hard!" it seemed to me like I spent his first two years watching him grow towards the level of maturity that I knew and was comfortable with. I felt no pangs watching him leave behind the baby stage and welcomed his blossoming into toddlerhood.
It was only after he turned two that I really understood what people said about not wanting their children to grow up. I felt definite pangs when we reached his third birthday, along with the apprehension of leaving familiar territory... I have some experience with three to six year olds, but not so much, and anything beyond that might as well be labelled: "Here there be dragons."
My daughter was born when my son was twenty-six months, and because we have always felt confident that she is our last child, the baby stage was that more precious. I still welcomed the passage of the first months (sleep deprivation makes me into a person I don't like), but I clung to some little things for that much longer, like carrying her in my arms instead of on my hip...
Now though, the needle has swung the other way again. I struggled a little with my son's transition from toddler to child, this post being a good example, but I've got used to the change in his outlook now, and become aware of just how much I like it, how much I like him. The conversations we have, his independence, those unexpected flashes of responsibility. It's delightful.
Meanwhile, my daughter benefits from my experience. I didn't look at the number on the birthday cards and fret that I only have a year before I have to learn new things again (though I had a moment of grief for one, which really is a lovely age). I remember the milestones my son hit, I look forward to her growing independence, and how we will all benefit. After all, in another few months she'll be potty trained, and we won't have to carry nappies and wipes with us.
We are definitely leaving the baby stage of our lives behind us, and I'll miss so much about that (like how my small daughter fit against me as, sorry and sick, she cuddled close on the sofa). But having children means we can expand our horizons further. This year, when planning an upcoming holiday, I can look for short walks that aren't stroller friendly. Next year, those walks can get longer, and we won't even own a stroller to pack. The year after that, we probably won't have to account for an afternoon nap...
Judging by how parenting works, I'm fairly sure that I'll continue to switch between: "Yay for growing up!" and "Don't get any older!" Already, I've had a few friends talk darkly about the moodiness of five years old... and god knows, the teenage years continue to hold terrors for me.
But right now, I'm loving that my children are growing into themselves, and I'm looking forward to all the new adventures our family can experience.