Today, my firstborn turns eight. I read recently that eight is the age that’s right in between early childhood and older childhood, and that scared the hell out of me. When kids are young, it’s so easy to wish time away, but you don’t realize how quickly that crazy, exhausting time goes by. When your kids make the transition from early childhood to older childhood, you may actually miss the early days, as messy and as tiring as they were.
Part of me feels like it was just yesterday that Clay was a baby. But a quick glance at him reminds me that’s not the case. That tiny, premature baby is now one of the biggest kids in class. He comes up to my shoulders, and I’m not short. He eats more than me. He does his homework without my help. He tries new foods. He walks his sister to her classroom. When he disappears, I often find him in his room reading (or playing video games, he is eight after all). He rinses his own dishes. He’s officially old/big enough to not have a booster seat in the car, but he humors me and explains to his friends, “My mom is sort of obsessed with car safety.” He’s a good friend. He is compassionate. He loves sports. He is fiercely loyal to and protective of his family.
Working in a school, I’m always watching the older kids, wondering what my own kids will be like as teenagers. I think at just eight, Clay has given us a strong glimpse into the future. And I like what I see. He’s confident and funny. He has an incredible memory. He comes home and shares stories of his teacher and his friends. He’s a good teammate, and even though I was embarrassed when argued with a baseball umpire – and I get annoyed when he argues a point with me – I’m glad he’s comfortable standing up for himself, his friends and his family.
Clay has a very strong interest in going to college, which I find amusing for a child his age. Maybe it’s because Chase and I had such great college experiences, and we talk about them often. Or maybe it’s because the school where I work is so focused on college prep, and he asks me about the kids there a lot. He’s certain he’ll play baseball or football at a big name school. I see him at a big state school (FSU, maybe?) – as the student government president and the social chair of a fraternity, but we’ll see. Until then, it’s fun to talk about.
Just 10 short years from now, I will be getting ready to send my firstborn to college. I won’t be able to easily run my fingers through his hair, as he will tower over me. All four of us won’t be able to snuggle into the bed on a lazy Sunday morning as easily as we do now. The movies we watch on family movie night will change. Clay may not even want to do those things anymore.
But for now, he’s still eight. Straddling that line between younger child and older child. And eight is great.