A couple years ago, I realized our family had entered the sweet spot stage (and wrote here about how it changed my perspective on camp-free summers drastically) where our children are in the precious balance of still needing us but not needing us. In other words, they can carry out their activities of daily living unaided but still think we are a valid source of wisdom and (let’s be honest) food. That awareness has continued to grow to where I will spontaneously bust out Trace Adkins’ lyrics loudly on my unsuspecting family at any given time: “YOU’RE GONNA MISS THIS! YOU’RE GONNA WANT THIS BACK! YOU’RE GONNA WISH THESE DAYS HADN’T GONE BY SO FAST!” As jittery as it may make them, my clan is used to me bursting out in song. But for me to let loose some country music rather than El Debarge (or Tears For Fears this Sunday when my younger son buttoned his polo-styled shirt ALL the way up) is simply a sign of one thing: mid-childhood crisis.
I did the math (I’m Asian, after all) and according to my advanced calculations, my older son is halfway through his childhood. (I need a moment. One more moment, please. Hang on…YOU’RE GONNA MISS THIS! YOU’RE GONNA WANT THIS BACK!) He has lived 9 years with us and in 9 more years (if all goes according to plan) he will be leaving us for college. God-willing, he will no longer be living under the same roof as I. His daily life will no longer be a large part of my daily life. He will be off on his own never to return in the same way as the here and now ever again.
My oh-so-(not)-sentimental husband only says, “Yeah, try to remember that when they are fighting and whining.” As hard as that is sometimes, I do try. It is undoubtedly harder to sing Trace Adkins on mornings like today when they screamed (!!) after I repeated in gradual escalation that they needed to hurry up (!!!) to get to school on time. Then their ear-splitting fight over whose items could occupy the middle section of the back seat made me think that square foot of prime real estate was a penthouse condo in Manhattan. Tonight the household yelling and crying had me think towards the open window, ‘Enjoy the show, neighbors! Pop some popcorn! May our drama be as unbelievable as APS and/or the pre-election shenanigans!’ As annoying and wine-inducing as those (too frequent) moments are, I know that they are all part of the total package that I will miss in 9 very short years. Silence is golden except when it is forever.
Though I am not a selfie-kind of person (I cannot take one and not have a double chin or face cut off or other unflattering results…distance is a forgiving friend), I took one of the boys and me on Sunday. We three were squeezed on my rocking chair where my 7 year-old reminisced I had rocked him as a baby years ago. Despite losing feeling in my legs because 2 elementary-aged children take up way more space and are ten times heavier than an infant, I held onto that lazy afternoon moment like the savor-worthy jewel it was. We relished in leisurely conversation that started with Ethan asking me if I had ever been bullied as a kid (thanks to a lesson on being fearless at church). Because, like Popeye, I yam what I yam, that evolved into discussions about race, class, diversity, character, godly pursuits, and my hopes for them to change the world for the better all in their short lifetimes. (And they thought Tiger dad’s expectation of extra workbooks was a bit much.)
The desire to burn that afternoon in my mind was strong enough to resist the urge to delete an unflattering selfie. It was worth it to preserve this precious period where they ask questions and actually listen to my answers, where I can ask them questions and they earnestly attempt to answer in their tiny awareness of the world and themselves, where for just a couple hours time seems to stand still and I make a conscious effort to file this in the memory bank.
I know it will not always be this way. In the blink of an eye, they will be flying away from the nest. If I am in mid-childhood crisis now, will I be completely undone then? No. (I think.) I hope then I will know it is truly their time to fly. I will be excited for them to be an adult, to vote (just like me), to taste their (first) beer at a frat party (and then call me to confess), to date girls (that they know I will love), to realize that there are tons of other Asians out there and become fully secure in that identity for the first time, to expand and stretch their worldview, and to grow into the men God created them to be. For now, I try to savor these days of the sweet spot for as long as I can even when sibling squabbles hit WWIII levels and the whining as a reactive response takes me to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. My older one has had to endure extra hugs (unlike his brother, he is NOT my cuddle guy and shrieks in protest). Get used to it, shrieker boy, because for the next 9 lightening-fast years I will be working out this current mid-childhood crisis with gusto.