Camilla finished second grade Wednesday.
It kinda freaked me out when I realized it means she's halfway through elementary school, but when I mentioned that at the dinner table she didn't know what I was talking about.
"What's elementary school, Mom?"
She goes to a K-8 school, so of course she doesn't have an idea of the distinction between elementary and middle schools, but I am sure that when she starts sixth grade it will feel huge to me. And she's halfway there from the start of kindergarten.
Our kids are seven, five, and three (and three) and I'm aware these days of a constant wish to freeze time. Bedtime stalling and tantrums over dropped popsicles notwithstanding, life with little kids is hilarious and busy in a way that makes my heart squeeze with the goodness of the moments.
Seven and a half years into this parenting gig, I shouldn't be but still am continually surprised by the paradox of living with and caring for people who are so much a part of me that I can't see how I'd manage to breathe if I no longer had them, but who are also so very much themselves not me. I'm responsible for them, but I don't - can't - determine them, and my pride in them ends up being not recognition of my own achievements but an astonished acknowledgement of who they are. That they, themselves, are IT. I am just a lucky recipient.
Camilla's second grade teacher wrote a certificate to recognize each child for a virtue exhibited during the year, and hers was meekness, defined as "serenity of spirit while considering the needs of others." Along with loving that definition of meekness (I feel like the standard accepted definition is much weaker), I also laughed because... well, she definitely didn't learn that virtue by MY example. Serenity of spirit! Ha!
But there's the beauty of it: that Camilla is mine, heart of my heart, and yet distinctly other than I am, so that even at seven she has virtues that I at thirty-one have not yet learned. And simultaneously she is exactly me: she curls in the big chair and reads a Ramona book in a day, and I get an instant sense memory of spending so much of my childhood just that way.
I am grateful for what Camilla's childhood has been thus far, especially because I recognize how little of the goodness I can take credit for. We have a school we adore and she is secure and happy there. It's been a beautiful year for her, full of friendships and fun and the reading and writing she loves. (She actually hopped with excitement when she told me they were going to begin writing stories in class. That's my girl!) Second grade has also meant first confession and communion, and the joy of seeing our girl hit those milestones... honestly indescribable. Even as I love having little kids I'm getting glimpses of the good parts of having big kids and it makes it hard to be upset about the passage of time.
Blaise will be in kindergarten this fall, and now that Camilla's half done with elementary school (even if that means nothing to her) I feel more keenly aware of the sensation that I'm sending a ball rolling down a hill, that I'll be struggling hereafter to catch him for a moment before he's off again, tumbling toward graduation at a pace far faster than seems appropriate for someone who was a nursling two blinks of the eye ago.
But he came out of kindergarten testing (fairly intensive, as our private school can choose not to accept children it thinks aren't ready) with a grin and request for "more kindergarten testing, Mom!" and every time we're at the school he talks about how excited he is to go there. He turned five in January and he's ready for this step, and so I will have to be ready too.
For now, though, between June 4th and the first day of school on August 26th, I have a moment.
I can pretend that this is our life forever: tricycles and scooters and sidewalk chalk, the swingset, windows open and all the sounds of imagination drifting through, dinner outside, trips to the park in the evening, holding them on my lap during prayers and smelling the summer on them, reading the Narnia chronicles at bedtime (an extra chapter okay because they can sleep in tomorrow). Lazy pace, sticky dirty happy children, a chance to pause and breathe and enjoy the fact that they're kids, just for now, just mine.