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Parenting Imperfect

May 1, 2010

The older the kids get, the faster the time flies

When the Diva was 4 years old and the Boy wasn't even 1, parents with school-age kids told me that the kids will grow faster than I think.

I thought they were full of it, frankly.

Our days were long, then, what with all of the changing and feeding and amusing. The nights were longer, since neither kid was inclined to sleep. The days were slow marches made by exhausted feet.

And yet time passed, as it does. The Boy will start kindergarten in the fall. The Diva is nearly a third-grader.

I admit _ it all goes so fast. From now on out, like a wagon at the top of a steep hill, it can only go faster, until velocity sends it out into a wider world.

I needed to get away from the kids for a bit to finally clue into how quickly my kids are growing. I've been traveling a lot lately, little overnight trips to such exotic locales as Philadelphia and New Hampshire. The kids have been mostly happy to see me go, if only because they are more likely to be allowed to eat dinner on the couch when I'm not around.

Which isn't to say that all house rules are chucked out when I'm away. My husband and I each have a few rules that we endorse individually simply because the other one thinks it's important.

For example, I think families should eat at tables like civilized human beings who sit in chairs and use utensils. He plays along, even though he's not as keen on this as I am. His sticking point is the policy that you eat all of the vegetables on your plate even if you deem them yucky despite the fact that you ate them yesterday with no complaints.

That is the hill he's willing to die on. I'll support his holding action even if my chosen hill is across the field. And vice versa.

But when one parent isn't around, it's easier to cede the high ground to the offspring. With the two of them working as a team, which they can do when it suits them, it's easy to outflank the sole parent and get to eat dinner in the living room.

This might be the first time I noticed how similar parenting and battle tactics are. This can't be mere coincidence.

Larger theories aside, lately I've been intermittently away. I spend the non-travel time catching up on life-related fun like laundry and grading. My mind has been elsewhere.

During one of these trips, my husband took the Boy for a haircut. It was long overdue. We could barely remember what color his eyes were.

When I came home the next day, I boggled at the kid who ran up to hug me. Gone was my pudgy round preschooler. He'd been replaced by an angular kid who is all elbows and knees. His face suddenly has cheekbones. His ears still resemble the president's, however, so I still have that to hold on to.

But what got me more was his language. He talks constantly now and in great detail. He questions everything from how raisins are made to how the sun shines. He can describe sequences of future events, like _ I'll get my shoes on, we'll walk to the park and I'll push my sister in the creek.

Between our two small talkers, we've been forced to play the quiet game on long trips. Both kids have gotten good at it, too. On one recent trip they were quiet enough that I forgot they were playing a game and started to worry about it being too quiet in the car but didn't want to say anything that would provoke more talking.

Like it was yesterday, I remember the Boy as a baby, one who would snuggle in and breathe gently on my neck while we rocked. Last night, when I was carrying him back to his bed after a trip to the bathroom, his feet dangled down to my knees as he wrapped his long arms around my shoulders for a better grip. I can't really remember all of the moments in between, even though I know there must have been many.

I'm not sure how much longer I can carry him back to his bed. I can feel my back and knees protesting when I squat down to lift him.

I've long given up on carrying his sister, which she still complains about and takes as proof that I love her brother more.

By the next time I look up, I reckon they'll be in high school. It does move so fast, once you gain momentum.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott and author of "Sweater Quest," which was published in March. Her columns can be found at

www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.

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