Remember reading the What to Expect books? I carefully read every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and I browsed through What to Expect the First Year. There are other books in this series, but one I personally think would make a very helpful and reassuring addition is “What to Expect the Big Kid Years.” To give you an idea of what I’d hope would be included in that book, I’d like to share some of what I didn’t expect about this big kid season.

To start, I never expected to love these years as much as I do! I was always in love with the baby and little-one stages. The cuddly sweetness, the pure love, the wonder. I kind of always worried about the big kid (and beyond) years and not having the precious closeness anymore.

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But you know what? There’s an even deeper connection now. As our sweet littles grow into bigs, they become their own, amazing humans. We begin to see their souls, who they are meant to be. Our relationships with them evolve with this process, almost unbeknownst to us.

Until one day we realize, Hey, I really like you! Not just love, but genuinely and deeply like.

I adore the new facets of my relationship with both my daughter and son, from the thought-provoking conversations we have to the fun we have togetherlike coffee dates, Target adventures, late-night Taco Bell runs, watching favorite shows that have become our shows, taking little trips together, etc.

But extra surprising was the discovery that our teens and young adults start to appreciate us on an entirely new and deeper level. When they start to see us as more than parents, they get to know us as the people we are. They ask more questionsabout what we did, how we thought, how we felt about various issues, about when we were teens or young adults before we became their mom or dad. New bonds are built and we have the opportunity to forge the most beautiful friendships with our children.

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If we’re lucky, they begin to clearly see the meaningfulness of all we gave as parents, and not in the material sense. Two unexpected gifts I received from my college kids came in grateful words they shared with me. Words that filled my heart and soul with indescribable joy and sense of blessing. A message from my daughter, “You are the most important person to me.” A text from my son, “I’m really happy that you were a stay at home mom. And that you’ve always been here for me.” Wow.

These are the kinds of feelings our little ones can’t experience on the same deep level that our big kids can.

Of course, we are important to our babies and littles, but it is more in a you’re my world right now and I rely on you to survive way. From our nearly grown children, these feelings are far more complex. These sentiments have been nurtured and expanded with years of love, talking, sharing, guiding, listening, and more. So the powerful love and gratitude they impart are even stronger.

Another unexpected treasure is the realization of just how much our big kids can teach us. Yes, we start learning from our children from the moment they are born. They reshape who we are and help us discover our hidden potential. As teens and young adults who really know us, they can offer us insights, solutions, and support from a unique and valuable perspective. They are actively learning at this stage of their lives, and they contribute to stimulating discussions and inspiring conversations.

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There is something exquisite in receiving comfort or guidance from your own child. When they help you to look at something from an entirely fresh perspective, but what they offer resonates effortlesslymaybe because it comes with unique wisdom and love from cherished humans who came from you.

I also never expected to still worry so much about my kids.

To feel in my body and soul when they’re experiencing hardship, sadness, struggle, stress, or illness. And to lose sleep much like I did when they were babies or little ones even though there’s not much I can physically do. Where before we offered comfort in a more physical way (rocking, nursing, holding, hugging), now we offer comfort in a more emotionally supportive way (listening, sharing words of support, and sometimes hugs). Though they grow, we never stop being their moms—that’s a lifetime position (and I’m infinitely thankful for that).

While there are many more items that would be included in a hypothetical “What to Expect the Big Kid Years” book, hopefully, I’ve given you a sense of some UNexpected blessings that just might grace your life during the big kid season.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Sydnei Kaplan

Sydnei Kaplan is Mom to two of her greatest blessings—both in college—and wife to David. She left a marketing career when she became a mom and never looked back. Along the way she discovered her soul’s true calling and found joy not just in raising her own children, but in supporting friends along their journeys. Currently, she is a part-time preschool assistant and has rediscovered her passion for writing at Mom in the Moment, her blog. Find her work on Collegiate Parent, Living the Second Act, and Grown and Flown.