Earlier this week, the kids and I loaded up our little vintage camper and set off on our first foray of the season.
We wandered just a couple of hours from home, to see the magnolia blooms and spend a few days playing at our makerspace. There’s something about stepping away from our own rooms and the rhythm of home and sharing this micro-small space… it’s our jam. We thrive in that tiny, quirky camper together.
Being on the road with the kids once more had me remembering the epic month-long road trips we have taken, setting off cross-country to Maine and North Carolina, just the kids and me for 4 weeks at a go; and our recent month-long family road trip around Ireland.
And in remembering these journeys, I was struck once more by how fast the past years have elapsed. Lupine was three when I loaded them up and headed to the Outerbanks. Sage was only seven. But now? They’re big, and showing no signs of stopping with this growing up. I can see the last grains of sand slipping down that steep incline of the hourglass.
This summer Sage begins driver’s ed. Last night he said casually, “The next time we take a cross-country road trip, I can help with the driving.”
How did this happen?
Because like 20 minutes ago I was overwhelmed, under-slept, and all touched-out.
And then, poof.
All at once we’ve begun the last pages of the chapter that changed everything. As we complete this transition from small into big, parenting feels simultaneously more rewarding, more complex, and more important than ever before.
I have never felt more bereft of the skills required to do a job than I do now, nor more rewarded by my fumbling, awkward efforts.
Remember that feeling when your midwife finally left, or when you came home from the hospital with your newborn and you looked at your baby and wondered, wild-eyed and possibly aloud:
“What were they thinking? They just left me with this little human, and I have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m doing.”
This new chapter of parenting is kind of like that all over again. Except now the small shoes suddenly belong to you (the kid feet long ago eclipsing your own in size), and your kids outpace you in their quickness of thought, wit, and motion.
And you feel like you should know what you’re doing by now, but like every other stage in parenthood, things shift and change in an instant. And you find yourself learning new skills every step of the way (or that’s how it is for me anyway).
Yet, the basics of parenting remain the same: validate, listen, connect. Be honest and gentle and kind. And for goodness sake, play.
We circle back to this foundation, time and again. Sometimes we forget, but our kids will remind us with their expressions, their words, and their actions.
At the same time that we learn these news skills – this complicated new dance – the rewards of this journey have grown proportionally with the people. These older kids inspire and amaze me constantly with their skills, their wisdom, their spirit, and their wit. They are a delight to talk to, debate with, be around, and hang out with. I adore them – as my kids, yes, but also simply as people. And I can’t wait to see who they become as adults.
My kids. As adults.
Which brings me back to Nellie, our camper.
With Sage turning 18 in two short years, the proverbial light is no longer at some distant end of a tunnel. It’s so close it’s burning my retinas. So we decided to carpe the living heck out of this diem.
Did I mention that neither of my kids go to school and Pete and I are self-employed and we already sold the sheep? We can go anywhere. So maybe we just will.
The world is waiting, and childhood is fading. Let’s savor every drop.
We’re planning to take an extended road trip together each year. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to fund another trip oversees like we did last year (we spent all of our abundant 15-year stockpile of airline miles). But to load up our funky camper with cozy quilts and hiking boots and knitting projects and so much Irish tea, then get out there and make some more memories? That we can swing.
We’re contemplating Yellowstone and Yosemite, the California Coast and a loop around Lake Superior. The desert southwest and the redwoods are calling, too. But the truth is, we don’t have that many years left before adult things like jobs or college or business start-ups get in the way, so we’re narrowing it down to our top 2 or maybe 3 picks.
Because that’s all the time we have left for this carefree childhood we have created.
You could say I am binging on childhood, an accusation I will happily own.
Because it’s fading before my eyes. And the young adults that will remain when childhood is gone will be every bit as inspiring and delightful as the kids they left behind, but for me – for now – I want to make the most of our copious free time and togetherness. Of this last breath of childhood.
Because despite the stress and frustration and overwhelm and messes that make up so much of parenthood, it’s going too damn fast.
And like the most breathtaking sunrise, I don’t want to look away for an instant.
The day will surely be beautiful, but the fleeting magic of the sun cresting over the hills? That I will pause to savor.
So that I may never forget.