Childhood milestone reached…Where did my baby go?

A little girl stands in the foreground looking away from camera towards a well-lit christmas tree.
Photo by Greg Rosenke via Unsplash

Content warning: Discussion about Christmas that you might not want little children to read…!

My daughter is seven years old (almost 8). I thought we had another year or two before we hit this childhood milestone.  I also didn’t think we’d discuss it during the summer but I’ve learned the hard way that kids aren’t predictable!

My heart might have broken a little when I heard… ‘Does Santa really give us gifts, or is it you and Daddy?’

She said she had been thinking about it for a while.  She wondered how Santa could keep finding us when we moved so frequently…military child much?!

A christmas tree sits in the corner of a room. The lights on the tree are lit and presents are wrapped underneath the tree.
Christmas Time

Then, when I was still reeling, she told me that she doesn’t believe in magic anymore either.  I managed to hold back the tears and stop myself from screaming, ‘where did my baby go?’ but it was close.

I didn’t feel ready for her to leave her ‘young child’ stage behind and move on.  But then I realised that she is ready.  She’s ready to grow up and Mama is just going to have to roll with the punches!

Once I realised this, we started talking.  She has a younger brother who is very much still a believer. I explained that now she is old enough to understand that the concept of Santa isn’t about one person.  It’s about the joy and excitement of Christmas and being around your loved ones.

Now that she has reached this childhood milestone, she gets to help maintain the excitement for other kids.  Most importantly, her younger brother.  She said she is on board with that, but only time will tell I guess.

As I write this, her eighth birthday is a week away and I always get the same feeling near my kids’ birthdays.  It is hard to pinpoint but I think it is the sense that time is passing too fast.  It feels like they are growing up faster than I can handle.

But each year we all adjust.  I work to give them more independence and freedom as they become more responsible.  They try new things and develop themselves in so many ways.  I try not to think ahead to a time when they might not need me anymore.  However, with each milestone, I know we are getting closer to that point.

My daughter has also recently become engrossed in books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in particular. She can often be found curled up reading.  I love to see that but reading to herself feels like another childhood milestone.

For the last eight years, we have read with her.  At first, we pointed at pictures, then read rhymes, then longer stories with fewer pictures.  But we still got to read the books with her.  We knew the characters and the storylines…some from memory we read them so often! Now a whole new world is opening up for her as she enjoys reading recreationally.  It is a world she mostly travels alone.

The author, Jenny, is smiling at the camera and holding her baby in her arms. The baby is asleep.
Almost 8 years ago…

This is the part of her growing up that makes me a little sad.  It seems that the more she matures, the less of her life is shared with me.  There are more and more parts of her life that I only know about if she chooses to tell me.  When it comes to the school day, she doesn’t hold back with what she tells me but she often doesn’t remember.  Or the things which I consider significant aren’t significant to her.  So, unless I ask the right questions, they will remain a secret.

As I mourn the loss of the younger child years, I also find myself hurtling toward a bigger change.  I am acutely aware that puberty is around the corner for her.  We have always talked with her and her brother about some of the changes to their bodies.  Now they are also learning about it at school.  As a result, it is a hot topic of conversation at home too.  I am grateful for that.  I’m glad she knows she can talk to me and ask me any questions.

But it’s another reminder, isn’t it? Before long she will be a pre-teen and all the fun and games that will go along with that.  We will have to navigate those waters soon but we have a little time.

For now, I am happy to watch her grow and guide her through each childhood milestone as best I can.  I may be sad about the years passing but I know that she is keen to grow up.  I will do my best to help her flourish.

When it comes to Santa though, there is a (very) small part of me that is kind of relieved. It is the part of me that was woken up almost hourly on Christmas Eve by very excited children awaiting morning.  Perhaps we’ll get a bit more sleep this year…a girl can dream, can’t I?