My children frequently take my breath away, whether with their beauty (because, oh, my, these children are beautiful, aren’t they?) or their view of the world. Or, more and more, with the speed at which they are growingI’ve got whiplash.

My oldest just turned nine, and I can see the teenager in him, not just in his attempts to refer to me as “brah,” but also in the ease with which he runs across the soccer field, or the way he tosses his hair. The colorful days of his childhood are passing at warp speed right now.

Recently, we were caught in traffic, and I turned off the highway to take a backroad. My son lifted his head and said, “I’ve never been on this road before!” He stared out the window, in silence, and took in the different houses, the new yards, the unique cross streets. I gasped at the overwhelming feeling of love in that moment. 

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I love these small adventures, whether expected or unexpected. I love that, for my young children, taking a different route can be something special.  

At that moment, I felt how much I love being the parent of young children. 

Is it exhausting? Yes. Does it take every ounce of me? Absolutely. Do I love it with my whole heart? 100%. These are the days I prayed for, and the magic of these children consumes me.

But the days are passing so very quickly. 

My 9-year-old will still slip his hand in mine to cross the street, but he will also shoo me off when he catches me taking a video of him on the lacrosse field. He’s slowly becoming embarrassed of me while simultaneously holding onto every last piece of his childhood. 

While I can fully appreciate that he is old enough to play with his toddler brother while I try to have a coherent thought, I am not ready to explore what it means to parent a pre-teen.

Instead, I am going to hold onto the joy of small adventures.

This summer is packed with the intentional memory makers of camping trips, lazy days with grandparents, and running through the sprinklers. I will surprise my 9-year-old and his 6-year-old sister and toddler brother with cookies from their favorite shop. I will dive into the bounce house with them and wrestle.

“Mama, you wrestle like a girl.”  

I will laugh out loud, smother him with kisses, and then flip him across the vinyl floor. And he will hold onto these moments. He will remember, when he’s older, how I left behind the dishes to chase him around the yard. He will remember barefoot soccer games and snuggling on the couch to read a book together.

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At a local beach with friends, the younger kids dug ditches and built catches, but my soon-to-be fourth grader wanted to dive into the water. This was a new beach, and it was crowded. Even with his budding confidence, he knew he needed an adult with him. My husband walked the length of the shore while my son sludged through the mushy sand to get to the water. He walked out as far as the low tide would let him, and when they came back from their walk, he asked me to go with him.

I’ve learned to say yes to these requests.

I strapped the toddler into the carrier because my 18-month-old most definitely will not let me walk away and navigated around the detailed child-built sand trails to reach my oldest.  

He ran across the water. My precious boy splashed and ran, and when he’d gotten ahead of me, he would look back to make sure I saw him. He’d beckon me to catch up, and then he’d laugh and keep running, his long legs carrying him across the water.

We packed up our gear as the tide came in and made our way back to the car. Sandy feet clambered into the SUV, and slightly damp bottoms sat down in car seats. As we pulled away, I looked in the mirror and caught my firstborn’s eyes as he smiled. I reached my hand back, and he held it.

I’m holding onto these moments, to these small gifts, just as he’s holding onto the small adventures that make childhood magical.

Sarah Knutson

Sarah Knutson is a mama to three wildings. She is a teacher, writer, photographer, and avid camper living in Napa Valley. She loves late summer nights, snuggling by the fireplace, and always has ingredients on hand to make brownies. You can follow her adventures at Roaring Mama Lion to read more about her experiences as a mom and winemaker's wife.