I remember cuddling my newborn baby, breathing in that incomparable smell, and blinking bleary eyes.
“Just wait ’til he can crawl!” seasoned moms would tell me, a knowing look of warning in their eyes. “THAT’S when things get interesting!”
And I trailed after my toddlers, hands outstretched behind them, marvelling at all their discoveries. As I did so, I heard–
“They SAY it’s the ‘terrible twos’, but really it’s age THREE you need to watch out for. Whoo–eee! That’s a rough one.”
And I’d look at these little ones, wondering what I was in for.
Three would come and three would go and, while it was never all sunshine and roses, it was a delightful load of fun. My three-year-olds enchanted me with their growing competence and independence. Their chubby legs lengthened and strengthened and I loved watching it.
“Well, sure, they’re cute now– just wait until they go to school and get influenced by all those other kids!”
And they went off to school. And made friends– some good, some bad. They learned lessons, formed opinions, strengthened convictions and, frankly, became even more fascinating little people.
“Kindergarteners are adorable, but, man, even by third grade, they get mouthy and mean.”
So I volunteered in the second and third grade classrooms– and I fell in LOVE with those kids. Wildly competent, they can read, manage self-care, carry on thoughtful conversations, yet they still care what I think! It’s like a miracle! I looked (and look) forward to spending time with those kids every week. Mouthy? Mean? Not usually. Typically, they’re kind and funny and considerate.
This past August, I prepared to send my oldest off to the intermediate school– it houses grades 4 through 6.
“Oh, you better brace yourself. This isn’t like the elementary school. These kids are totally different– they get cruel and crass and you just feel the unpleasant tween energy. Especially the sixth graders– oy, look out for them. You’ll see.”
And I did see.
I warily walked A. to the bus stop and watched as the group gathered. Over the first couple of weeks, I got to know this crowd of sixth grade boys and, you know what?
I LOVED THEM.
They were and are a clever bunch. They have a grasp of sarcasm that delights me. They are funny and determined and competitive. They are also kind and curious and willing to have all sorts of conversations. Why would I fear this age? Why would I dread these children?
And so here is where I tell you the truth as I know it–
EVERY STAGE IS AWESOME.
Yep, go ahead and read it again: Every.Stage.Is.Awesome.
Early elementary kids? Awesome.
Mid-grade elementary kids? Awesome.
Even now, I hear the whispers– “Just wait until they’re teens– you just don’t even know.”
And, you know what? I guess that’s true. I don’t really know. But, if I had to guess?
I’d bet they’ll be awesome.