I remember all the talk, ten years ago, about how the official start of the new century was 2001, not 2000. By this logic, the start of our next date should be 2011, not 2010; yet no one seems to be complaining about all the "Best of the Decade" lists and reviews being published and discussed.

I also remember an article in Newsweek, ten years ago, discussing how to refer to our present decade. The ohs? The zeroes? The aughts? I was a bit concerned about that myself; I realize now, upon reflection, that I never once in ten years needed to refer to this decade by name anyway. I guess maybe that's something you only do once the decade is over, really. Maybe in twenty years, my girls will reminisce about being "Children of the Aughts," (Hannah Montana and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and jumpstart.com), in the same way that I remember being a Child of the Seventies (Donny and Marie and Happy Days and the Speak n Spell).

For me, the Aughts were my decade of Having Small Children. The past ten years were spent planning to get pregnant, getting pregnant, having my first baby, being completely overwhelmed, having another baby, being even more overwhelmed, and finally, getting to the point where I can sleep through the night without being interrupted by some small person needing something from me. In this decade I have experienced more about frustration (tantrums, toilet training) and exhaustion (nighttime feedings) and fear (losing child at mall; illnesses) and stress (childcare arrangements) and tedium (Noggin) than I would have ever thought possible, ten years ago -- but also, naturally, more joy and love and contentment and pride.

And it's almost over, these days of Small Children. Next year Phoebe will start kindergarten. Soon both of my kids will be able to read, to brush their own teeth, to add and subtract, to cut with scissors without supervision. After almost eight years of co-sleeping, I now can give good-night kisses, turn off the light, and walk out of their bedroom at nine o'clock. Amazing! Sometimes lately I catch myself, at noon on a Saturday, or early in the evening on a Wednesday, and realize that the kids have been entertaining themselves for hours, and I've been able to finish cleaning the kitchen or making dinner or making a grocery list without being interrupted to dress a Polly Pocket doll or find a lost princess wand or help someone in the bathroom -- and I just stand there at a loss, wondering what I'm supposed to do with myself. I have time, now. I suppose I should try to find a good way of spending it.

I don't think I'm quite ready to move on. They weren't small quite long enough. Nothing goes by as fast as babyhood. Marriages last for decades (if you're lucky), school lasts at least a dozen years; even retirement, now, can last twenty years or more. But kids are just little -- really little, little enough to need you completely -- for what, three years? Four? And you can never go back. In 1993, I went to Westminster Abbey, and it was wonderful, one of the greatest moments of my life. Even greater than that is that someday I could return to Westminster Abbey. Maybe in 2014, I can go see it again, and notice things I didn't notice before, and see things that I overlooked the last time. But I can never go back to Mallory's first birthday, when she held up one cake-smeared finger to show how old she was, or to Phoebe's preschool Christmas pageant where she sang "Silent Night" louder than any other child, even though she was the shyest one in the class. It's done.

Well. That all came out a little bit more vehemently than I meant it to. This wasn't supposed to be such a downer of a post. And how original of me, too. Kids grow up fast! I'm the first person to ever notice that! For my next trick, I will demonstrate how a watched pot never boils.

My consolation (every parent's consolation) is that the compensation for your kids growing up is...that your kids grow up. I am so lucky to have had my decade filled with these two girls, and that luck just compounds every day. So I'm mostly looking forward to the Tens (the Teens? why must this be so complicated?). After all, it won't be until 2017 that Mallory will get her driver's license...so that means over half a decade of good nights' sleep coming my way.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Karen said...

If you go back to Westminster Abbey in 2014, I want to go with you! Do I need to start saving money?

Chris said...

If you miss little babies that much, we could always have another one.....no?

I'll miss their baby, dependent years too, but I'm also looking forward to seeing them develop into young adults, and being able to talk about more with them than the latest Spongebob episode. But then again, who am I kidding...I'll probably always be talking Spongebob with them.

aimee said...

Yeah, Spongebob will never end! :)

You may not have been the first to think it (kids grow up fast) but few have written a blog post that eloquent about it.

Happy New Year and may the tens, or teens or whatever you call it be good to you all!

And don't remind me about when they get their driver's licence! That is just in 7 short years! Ahh!

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