Making childhood last

August 13th, 2007

Sunday was Georgia’s 8th birthday. We had a costume party, a pageant of make-believe featuring her in the dual leads as both herself, coyly turning 8, and as Lucy Pevensie, regally self-possessed as the Queen of Narnia. For weeks, Georgia was lost in lustrous imaginings of this wish come true.

She is, at this cusp, the very best of all. Still sweetly a child pretending to be everything she is and could be, yet so nearly a tween. But then, being the best of all is what I’ve always found her to be; it’s what I’ve found each year, after the anguish of anticipation, under the opaque folds of doubt and uncertainty. Every year is the best year yet.

How I wish they would last! How I wish it all wasn’t so soon to pass. How well I know better.

It’s with that yearning, that wistful backward glance, that I offer this modest summary for your consideration.

5 Ways to Make Childhood Last

1. Wake up. Let your children wake you up. Better yet, let them drag you out of bed. How much of your life – how much of their lives – do you spend in this ceaseless struggle to get more sleep? Give up already. I promise you, one day too soon the house will grow empty. Then sleep will once more evade. Seize the day! Seize the night! This divine mission to bring us into full awareness of our lives is the reason your child has come. So crack a lid and get this party started. If you could just once see the exhilarating potential they wake to every day, you’d know why children don’t want to waste a minute to slumber.

2. Break the rules. Brownies for breakfast. Painting your hair. Jumping on the beds. Staying up late and missing school. Adventure! Daring! Build your house on rules, but then have the good sense to barrel right through them from time to time. Breaking rules brings your home to life. It brings you to life!

3. Get on the floor. For one hour a day, get down on the floor and surrender to play. Not play on your terms – where you choose the game, control the action, and make corrections – play on their terms. Set a kitchen timer to keep track. Your children need one hour of undistracted attention from you each day. The trouble is, we spend 16 hours avoiding it.

4. Hold hands. Kisses grow scarce. Cuddles are outgrown. Your scrumptious love bugs will soon be parceling out the affection in piddling doses. How then to keep close? Hold hands at every chance. It’s the last, best way to stay in touch. It’s practical, it’s intimate, it’s precious, and it’s the ageless sign of peaceful coexistence. And when your child finally lets go of your fingertips, you’ll know one thing for sure. All this time you thought you were guiding them forward, they were really leading you here. To the point of letting go.

5. Say it a million times over. I love you. I’m proud of you. You’re funny. Good idea! I like it. That’s perfect. Yes! You make me smile. I missed you. Good choice! I had fun with you today. I believe you. I’m glad to see you. Let’s play. Blow me a kiss. Sit on my lap. Let me tell you a story. Once there was a little girl who turned into a queen. Happy birthday Lucy! You can be anything and anyone you wish.


  1. Wow. I just love this post. Thank you. You’re right. I proudly, at this point, do all of these things! I spend way more than an hour down on the floor playing, which is why the house is always a disaster!

    “All this time you thought you were guiding them forward, they were really leading you here. To the point of letting go.”

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. Makes me want to cry.

    Comment by Shawn — August 13, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  2. so true and so beautifully written. i think i’ll paste it up on the refrigerator (very low tech, but hey…)! thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Comment by phyllis — August 13, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  3. i’m in tears, karen, this is lovely!

    and happy birthday, queen of narnia!

    Comment by Wendy — August 13, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

  4. Exactly…

    Comment by denise — August 14, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

  5. Going up on my refrigerator, as well.

    And, Happy Birthday, Georgia!

    Comment by Mama Zen — August 14, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

  6. Karen,
    I just printed this out, too! I need this on my wall, esp. with summer coming to a end… Thank you, thank you.
    I’m so glad that we found each other again!

    Comment by Single Mom Seeking — August 15, 2007 @ 5:00 am

  7. I so agree with your list. My kids are 12 and 15, so the days of playing on the floor are almost gone. 🙁

    The adventures and skipping school, I gladly do. In the scheme of things, will the world really stop if they miss a day or two for fun?

    Comment by Gretchen — August 15, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  8. Happy Birthday Georgia. We share the same birthday and I was thinking of you on Sunday.
    Karen, thank-you for this. Number one is the thing about motherhood that has truly changed my life. Always, every moment, there is the call – wake up. And as for number two, this is perhaps my personal favorite.

    Comment by bella — August 15, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

  9. Karen,
    Thank you for bringing to mind so many important thoughts. We are in the midst of incredibly early wake ups with our 4 year old who has never been a big sleeper. I tend to be super cranky in the morning which just gets us all off on the wrong foot. Tomorrow I will try to remember to wake to the day as a four year old does, to not want to waste any time in sleep. Thank you.

    Comment by Stacey — August 16, 2007 @ 12:49 am

  10. Thank you for sharing this list. It took my a long time to get over the sleep thing, but I think I am finally there.

    Number 3 spoke to me particularly. I play with Sami on the floor but in dribs and drabs. I will make a point tomorrow of being more intentional about it!

    Oh and of coure, happy birthday to Georgia!! You are all very lucky to have each other.

    Comment by Leah — August 17, 2007 @ 3:46 am

  11. sent me over here. That was a great post! I have a 2 year old and getting up at 6:30 is getting to me lol. I will try to remember not to waste a second of the day. Who needs sleep lol? Really it was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing!

    Oh and Happy Belated Birthday to Georgia!

    Comment by Candace & Anna — August 19, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  12. Thank you, Karen. Thank you.

    Comment by The Ten O' Clock Habit — March 14, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  13. In tears too…Yes…This is the way to parent–to live. The house can be clean when my boy is older. For now we are wizards and there are spells to be cast.

    Comment by Meg Casey — August 18, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  14. I remember reading this a long time ago, and I printed it out and put it on the fridge. Time to do so again! I love this post, I love you.

    Comment by Kathryn — May 2, 2012 @ 9:36 am

  15. A million times over.

    Comment by Jena — May 2, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  16. Wow- you just zero in so beautifully. Thank you so much. I too will print this out and stick it on my fridge.

    Comment by Colleen — May 2, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

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