There’s a shift in your child’s life where you become more of an observer than a hands on involved every second spent hovering parent. It’s not that you’re not absolutely there and involved, it’s just that they aren’t as needy as they were and while it’s a natural progression for all of us, it takes some getting used to. This is the shift to six years old.
I feel this shift when I drop them at kindergarten each morning and have very little idea of what actually happens each day except for what they and the teachers share with me. It’s odd yet comforting. I went from having a nanny who had her own instagram account just for us to see what they were doing all day or me being with them all day to basically nada. From 8:30am to 3:30pm each day it’s anyone’s guess (and then I have those 7 hours all to myself MWHAHAHAHA). I mean, I have their very detailed schedule of what is happening at school all day, but still. When I pick them up each day we chat about their day but we all know sometimes getting information can be like pulling teeth. Until bedtime. Then they want to tell you ALL THE THINGS. And I am here for it. Every word.
I tell them each morning as we say goodbye, “be kind, be brave, have fun” and well, they are doing just that so how could I be upset?
They told me their teacher did 3 cartwheels for them in the hallway the other day because they were being good listeners and their faces were filled with such wonder and joy I thought, there is a whole world with these kids I am no longer an immediate part of and it didn’t make me sad or jealous, it just made me so happy that they were so happy. I know they are in good hands.
We are in this place where my story is my story and their story is their story and they get to have a say in what I share, I mean to a certain extent. I’ve never shared their faces or names publicly, but privately I have and even that feels a bit like it’s not my place any longer. So sparingly, I will, of course, but it’s a new age now. We are six. They are writing their own stories. Sheila and I were chatting recently about writers we knew who reached a certain age with their kids and didn’t write about them as much anymore, and well, now we are both here at that point with our own kids. The shift.
I remember when my first nephew turned six. It seemed like such a big age. Such a turning point. It was. He’s 13 now and the most amazing kid – as are my other 3 nieces and nephews (where has the time gone!). He texted with me the other day because he got a phone! I was like WHO DIS and I know his parents put it off as long as possible, but oh my word does it feel strange to have my little tiny baby nephew have a phone and text his Aunt Katy. To my brother and sister-in-law, I’ll try not to abuse it and have you have to block me.
Some big shift things have happened in the last week or so.
We are in some new Chicago Park District classes for the winter session. I didn’t sign them up for any during the fall because starting full day kindergarten is enough, you know? But now, it is on.
So, we’ve got flag football for my boy while my girl does gymnastics (at the same building at the same time how great is that?) And then they’re both taking Irish Dance and Hip Hop. OH MY GOSH.
The classes are 45 minutes and cost about $9 for 3 months and oh my gosh how great is the park district!? Anyway, their first classes are this week.
I watched as my boy took to the gym court (I don’t know what it’s called ok give me a break) among many bigger kids and just held his head up high and tried to do what they were doing. He tried to play catch and do the warm ups and the running drills and the coach even handed him the ball once and that was his favorite part he said. I heard him telling several kids, “I just turned six yesterday” and the bigger kids were all kind and helpful but oh my stars he looked so little out there I had a hard time keeping my eyes dry that entire 45 minutes. I was so damn proud of him for holding his own and just trying so hard. He did such a great job out there. His flapping and his excitement were proof that he was actually having fun out there, thank goodness. I was texting with Sam this morning and said, “If I see anybody make fun of his flapping watch me get arrested” and she replied, “I’ll bail you out, you already know” and that is a real friend.
My girl is in in gymnastics and never has a child loved anything as much as she loves dance and gymnastics. Any and all of it. She tries so hard and she tells me she is so good she can do cartwheels and front flips and back flips (she absolutely cannot do flips – at least not yet) and I wish I had her very healthy ego because she is just magnificent. She has friends in the class she knows and never has a girl loved her friends and her classes so much in the history of ever. She recently said she wants to be a teacher and I can absolutely see that coming to fruition. I mean, if that’s what she wants. She is always helping me and her brother and playing school and just LOVES her teachers and school and the whole thing. She is like a duck to water and it’s just so enjoyable to watch.
We three recently got our own new to us ice skates (my husband has never once in his life been on ice skates can you even believe that but we are hoping to change that). We are hooked! All we want to do is skate!
We went to my old ice rink where I spent so much time as a skater in my youth and it has not changed one tiny bit since 1991 when I was last there – not the bathrooms or the vending machines or the floor tiles. I felt every single feeling and it was pretty damn overwhelming to be there with my kids. Bebe filmed me going around and they were both impressed that I can spin and go backwards. As am I. I could picture my mom sitting in the bleachers for hours as I practiced. Hours and hours huddled in her big puffy coat with the other moms. Long before smartphones or screens. But she had her books. Always and forever, she has her books.
We have a new thing and that is to go skating. It’s good for all of us. I’m trying to go once a week. My confidence grew from that one time and I can only imagine how much fun it will be as we keep growing in confidence. The smiles we all had while zooming around were worth the price of some used skates and admission, let me tell you.
Sidenote – are you following Jonathan Van Ness on instagram? I feel like he’s learning to figure skate as I relearn and it’s inspiring and lovely and adorable and bad ass. Follow me too while you’re at it . If I get up the nerve maybe I’ll share some video of our own skating adventures.
The kids got new bikes for their birthday from their grandparents. First bikes without training wheels. We have an alley in the back of our house (that Chicago life) and it makes a perfect training area for bike riding. We have been out a couple times and our girl went several times with no help right away. Our boy is very close as he did it for a couple seconds and I know he’ll get it soon. HOW IN THE WORLD.
I happened to get an award from my work for being there for over 15 years so I got to pick something nice as a reward for longevity. I PICKED A BIKE. I’m so excited! I haven’t had a bike in years and years and now we will all have bikes to ride come spring.
As always, so so much has happened in the last year that is important and awe inspiring and also maddening and sad and frustrating and big and little. But what I am left with on this annual post around their birthday is this – these kids are growing up exactly as THEY should be. Not anybody else. Not on my watch, not on your watch, on their watch. The universe has a way of working this stuff out and I have no control over it. We can do our best to keep them safe and provided for and guide them as best we can to be brave, kind kids, but in the end, this is on them. And they are making such good choices already, I feel so good about this year ahead. I’m excited. For them. For us. For the world (you know in between the rage and the crying).
The most important thing to me is that they are kind. That they do their best to extend kindness and know that it doesn’t always get returned but we still do it. That doesn’t mean we lie down and take cruelty either. It just means that kindness can rule the day and make our lives more joyful and fulfilling if we at least try. If we get outside of ourselves for a bit, things always get better.
My wish for this next year (and always) is that they continue to learn and grow and experience as much joy and wonder as kids can possibly experience. That they stay little as long as humanly possible and run and play and act silly and make mistakes and fall and get back up again. That we are outside in nature A LOT. As much as possible. That we read a million books together and go to the library every day. That we use our bodies to do things that are fun and good for us and that we never feel shame about the way we look or about the way anybody else looks. We are perfect exactly as we are. That we make friends and include everybody. That we meet and learn about all kinds of wonderfully different than us people. That we give people another chance. That they continue to claim their bodies as their own and what they say goes. That they stand up to bullies and sit next to the kid who doesn’t have a friend. I hope they continue to learn to be helpers and to ask for help when they need it.
My boy says, “Mama, you talk to all the moms. I see you. Today you were talking to Bill’s mama.” And I was. She and I were actually talking about how kids break us out of our comfort zones over and over and over. I am incredibly social now (I mean, for me) and each time I chat with another mom it’s outside my comfort zone. But I do it. For myself and so my kids see me doing it. It’s not easy all the time, but it’s getting easier the more I do it. The gifts of parenthood are wide and big and greater than I ever imagined.
My babies are 6 years old. The night before their birthday, at bedtime, we were in their room, all four of us, and I said I have a very special story for you. My husband looked mortified, rightly. But then I started by saying, “this is the story of Bubby and Bebe….” and just like right now when I typed that, I started welling up. My boy asked, “are you crying?” because he’s always in tune with my weepiness, and he hugged me and we kept going. My husband joined in telling the story of how they came to be in my belly, out of my belly and into our lives. My husband said, “mama was the first to hold you in her belly and I was the first to hold you out her belly” and oh my heart. What joy what rapture what wonder what layered gratitude has come since that day.
New twin parents! Having twins – in the beginning – is really really hard. You think, when will this get any easier or at least a bit less terrifying and frustrating every single day, and well, I promise you it does. At every age, I’ve found myself thinking, this is the best. This is the best age and it can’t possibly get better than this, and then it does. It just keeps getting better. They grow up and into each other and themselves and us and you cannot imagine one without the other and I find myself so so so grateful for these twins I never thought I wanted, nor would be able to have. I wish I had a twin. They happily and without ever a complaint (about sharing their space anyway) share a room and a classroom. They also have identities all their own.
My husband and I have worked through some really challenging times – still are – but when we look at these kids and each other we know we are doing something right. They are right. Fair is a word that is routinely spoken in our home and with twins you find “fair” to be everything, but as we grow together and learn sometimes things aren’t fair, I’m reminded that if life were fair, I wouldn’t have these babies. I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant while so many don’t. I wouldn’t be sober while so many never do. I likely wouldn’t be here at all. All the grace and gratitude, my loves.
I like to believe my kids will one day read this whole blog, or at least they could. Every word I’ve ever written about them has been with that thought in the back of my head. I hope they see that there’s nothing in the entire world that I love more than being their mom. I’ve never ever felt such complete joy and gratitude as I have to be theirs and they mine. I hope they feel my pride dripping off every word, and that when I express frustration know that is just part of parenting and life. I hope they are happy to read all the memories and funny stories and proud moments I’ve shared here. All the things about when they were too little to have clear memories of what they were like, it’s all here. It is sort of a time capsule for them, though I didn’t know that when I started all this, it’s what it’s become. I’m not great at scrapbooking or baby books but I found I’m pretty good at words and words about my babies are some of my favorites. I thank all of you for reading these words and finding yourselves in them along the way.
We are in this sweet spot (I know I’ve written that already many times) of really enjoying each other’s company and having conversations and making each other laugh and think and it’s mutual and not nearly as one sided as when they were very little and it’s just lovely. Little big kids are just delightful. Most of the time. I’m online less and with them more. I don’t want to miss a thing. I feel like I can breathe these days when it comes to these kids. They are self sufficient enough to not need every piece of me every moment of the day. Though I believe I will hear their distinct voices calling “mama” for the rest of my days, I don’t actually hear it nearly as often as I did even a year ago and that’s kind of wonderful.
It’s time for them to start telling more of their own stories and for me to back off of telling it for them. I have my own stories to tell, so I’ll continue to do that. But they are always here, always a part of my stories from here on out. That’s what having kids does to a person. They’re always in your mind, your heart, your words, even when they aren’t. You understand.
This year is going to be another great one for you, my babies. I just know it. We are so happy you are here and with us and making our lives so much fun.
I share this as exhibit A:
My nightly affirmation to my kids, “you are funny smart clever kind brave & cute” and then we add onto it each night with things about each other. Last night the add on from my boy about himself was “and I’m really good at farting”. He’s not wrong.
We have a couple 6-year-olds on our hands. I cannot believe it. When I think about what was happening 6 years ago…and all that’s happened since, well, it takes my breath away. This life is incredible. I never ever dreamed I could love and be loved so big and so hard. I’m so grateful to be their mom.
Past birthday posts: