I realize, now, that I have been coasting. We've been diaper-free for more than a year. Everyone dresses themselves. I can read my own books in the corner of the children's section of the library for quite a long time without any shushing. As a bonus, we get lots of hugs and spontaneous "I love you" 's and "thank you, God, for my dad and mom" prayers. I really like these ages.
I'm taking my cues from society, I guess. It tells me that the babies are demanding, and toddlers are terrible, and just wait (!) until they're teenagers. But I have never gotten any warnings about oh, say, 8-year-olds. Which must be why I was so caught off guard this week, as we ventured out for a long walk and playtime in the finally-warm weather, at a local park. We had a great time together throwing rocks in the creek, and finding interesting things to look at on the trail. When we got to the large playground, the four youngest ran off to climb and play. Levi, however, camped beside me on the picnic table. When a neighbor friend of his -- whom we haven't see all winter -- strolled up with his mom, Levi camped beside me at the picnic table. I said, repeatedly, in various forms, (sounding very much like a voice from my past) "Go play."
He said, repeatedly, "No. I don't want to."
After an hour or so of trying to have a conversation with my neighbor, while talking over the head -- literally -- of my suddenly-statuesque 8-year-old, we headed home. He asked me, in the truck, "Do you want to know why I didn't want to play on the playground?"
"Yes!" I said. "I really do."
"I didn't want to play with the little kids," he said, as if I should have known.
Oh. Yes, of course. The little kids, who are, like, seven.
At the end of the warm weather last year, he was the first one out of the truck and on the top of the monkey bars (and I'm sure we'll still have more of that this year). Someone could have mentioned to me that I should have buckled myself in a little earlier for the roller coaster of "I'm old/I'm just a kid". Didn't you remember my motion sickness?