My boys were playing freeze tag with some friends the other night and having finished the dinner dishes, I sat on the front porch and watched. Liam, 7, had only played the game a couple times before, and was taking the rule about being frozen very seriously. While his older brother, Jacob, 10, would stop and casually stand in one place when tagged, Liam held the exact position he had been in at the time of the tag. I watched with amusement as Liam struggled to balance on one foot, arms extended, not even blinking, until someone ran by to unfreeze him again.
If I could, I would freeze the current ages of my two boys for a couple of extra years. At 7 and 10, they are full-throttle in the middle of childhood, and it’s my favorite stage so far. Their 3 ½-year age difference, which seemed like quite a gap when they were younger, has finally narrowed. They can play together well, and Jacob is kind enough to go easy on his little brother to keep Liam’s frustration at bay. They no longer need the constant supervision their 2-year-old sister requires. A nice mix of dependence and independence, they’re old enough to put their own pajamas on, but young enough to still want to be tucked in.
Maybe it’s the former junior high teacher in me that wants to gently tap each of my boys and tell them they’re frozen at 7 and 10. I know about the attitudes that can come when kids turn 12 or 13, and I’m enjoying the absence of eye-rolling and talking back while I still can.
As far as I can tell, our boys are holding onto their childhood a little longer than some of their peers. Bill and I have limited their exposure to TV, movies and even popular songs. It has left them a little out of sync with pop culture, but I think it’s also kept them innocent longer. With no cable, no Game Boy, Game Cube and I-pod, there’s nothing for them to do but play and read. Nothing to do but be a kid.
But while I can keep them from growing up before their time, I can’t freeze them in mid-childhood forever. I can’t freeze them at 7 and 10 any more than I can hurry their sister through the unreasonable two’s and toward the more rational three-year-old stage. I can’t freeze them any more than I can freeze my own age. Time dictates its own pace.
What I’m hoping, though, is that I can learn from my current desire to hold onto the present. So often, as a parent, I’ve looked ahead or behind. When the boys were babies, I longed for the time when I could sleep through the night. When they started school, I looked back wistfully to our lazy mornings cuddling together. Now, rooted in the present, I’m (finally) appreciating them for the age they are. Fully enjoying my boys at their current age makes me wonder if what I’m looking for is not a forever 7- and 10-year-old, but rather, a spirit of enjoyment and wonder for my children, no matter what their age. Maybe I’m looking for the grace to see the beauty in every age — even those ages that might seem more difficult, like two or thirteen.
I will pray that God will give me the grace to enjoy my children when they’re teens just as much as I enjoy them right now. And who knows, maybe when Jacob is 16 and Liam is 13, I’ll say it doesn’t get any better than this, only to be proven wrong again when they’re 24 and 21. I don’t know. I do know though, that 7 and 10 is wonderful. Scooters and soccer. Freeze tag and kickball. Popsicles and chapter books. I can’t freeze it, but I can savor it. I can drink it in. And I am. I certainly am.