I watch him run the length of the grass, hands and head in a raptor pose. He still pretends, with his younger brother chasing behind, asking me to keep watching. Just like he did when he jumped off the side of the pool for the first time, and pedaled his bike down the driveway for the first time, he wants me to see. I’m his mom and no matter what he pretends to be or what milestone he’s conquered, I’ll be keeping a close eye on him.

But he’s also getting older. The grass that he’s running around in, playing like he’s a velociraptor, is in front of the school that he just spent the whole day in. The school where he learned to spell “earthquake” and estimate numbers in the hundreds of thousands, where life gets more complicated and ideas get bigger and bigger.

Pretty soon, all of my kids will have homework every night and not much time to just run around the yard, pretending to be dinosaurs. They’ll have significant things to worry about, and so will I. I’ve already moved beyond worrying whether the toddler will fall off the chair that he climbed all the way up, beyond whether he’ll be the last one to learn to spell his name, and beyond whether he’ll do the motions for the songs in the elementary school program. Right now I worry about whether the kids will still like him each time he moves up a grade and if he’ll continue to keep his math grade up, but before long, I’ll be worrying about the girl he likes and hoping she likes him, too, and what he’ll do after he graduates from high school.

For now, he’s still a child, and he still snuggles up next to me on the couch when it’s rainy outside, still makes raptor noises with his little brother. But childhood doesn’t last…we can only let them be kids as long as they’ll let us.

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