As I write this, my son sits across the table from me working on a calendar that he is creating himself. His tongue slips out to the side of his mouth as he concentrates on the numbers and words.
"How do you spell "School Starts?" he asks, erasing a number to make room.
A few weeks ago, I would have found these constant interruptions distracting while I tried to work. Now I find them endearing. Soon his sisters will be home for summer and in the fall he heads off to all-day first grade.
He's in afternoon kindergarten, so we spend our mornings together. Without his three sisters to spur him on, he is a gentle, sweet boy. And unlike his sisters, who spent their early years surrounded by a younger sibling or two, he is used to being on his own. We often work together in tandem. I'll be at the computer and he'll sit nearby assembling a LEGO ship or playing pirates or "writing a book." He is my companion on errands, a talking head in the backseat observing life unfurling around him in wonder.
But come September, for the first time in 14 years, I'll be on my own during the day. And I'm suddenly forced to confront the stunning truth of that tired cliché: Time goes so fast.
In the swirl of toddlers with their nap times, demands, boundless energy and endless supply of brightly colored toys, my identity receded farther and farther away. Lately, the longing for something more has grown stronger. It's been a luxury to stay home but now it's time to pick up the pieces of my other self, the person not defined solely by her children.
Thus it is bittersweet, this saying goodbye to young childhood. I join the full-time legions of grade school parents. My days no longer need to be structured around nap time and Thomas the Tank Engine. The car is no longer littered with Cheerios. My décor is no longer Fisher Price.
For now, I hold my little guy extra tight. At night his soft skin and heavy breathing still hold some element of baby hidden below the surface of his now grade school-size body. It's all the sweeter smell, knowing first-hand how fast it moves away.
Laura Amann, Elmhurst
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and the mother of four living in Elmhurst.
See more of Laura's stories here.