We have a big family—five kids if you’re counting (which I sometimes do, just to make sure we have everyone). And honestly, I don’t really think about having a lot of kids or a big family until someone else points it out to me. It really doesn’t feel like that big of a deal.
But there are moments when I’m suddenly aware of the way our family spans the different phases of childhood. With a toddler, a kindergartner, an elementary kiddo, a middle schooler, and a high schooler, we hit almost every one. And those moments help me see the progression, the slow subtle shift from little to big that we often miss when focused on one phase at a time.
Most recently, it happened as I scrolled through my phone looking at pictures—mostly of my toddler because he’s with me almost every minute of every day. As I glanced at each picture, I got lost in the moments they recorded—the everyday, ordinary moments that I don’t even realize are shaping him until I look at his older siblings.
His little legs dangle over the edge of the counter as he stirs the eggs I’ve cracked into the measuring cup. “Slow . . . don’t splash out the side,” I remind him. Baking with a toddler takes more time and is a WHOLE lot messier. Somedays, I wish he would just play beside me, on the floor, with anything but my ingredients and mixer.
But then I watch my 9-year-old stand at the stove mixing up eggs, pouring them into the pan, and making his own breakfast.
And I realize, my little chef became a do-it-myself meal maker.
Buckling my little helper into the grocery cart can be a fight somedays. “Walk,” he demands. But I know he cannot walk because it will turn into running—through the aisles and away from me as he grabs anything within reach, squealing in the delight of freedom. And so I guide his little legs through the openings of the cart seat as I wonder if there is any way to do the grocery shopping without him. But then I watch my oldest shop for her own things with her own money—considering her budget, looking for off-brands or good bargains, and checking reviews.
And I realize my little helper became a financially responsible young woman.
I load up the bag with toys, juice, snacks, and coloring supplies and push the stroller across the parking lot to the football field. I entertain the toddler sitting next to me, coaxing him to sit as I do my best to watch his big brother on the field. Between opening a snack and picking up a toy, I catch a glimpse of a helmet that makes his head look too big for his body as my oldest son runs onto the field. He takes his place on the line and glances over at the official to check his positioning.
And I realize my little sidekick became the athlete on the field, playing a sport he loves.
The rag glides over his pudgy fingers, wiping away the remnants of his snack. “Count my fingers,” he grins at me. One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five. Across from him, my kindergartner sits with a pencil in her hand. She reads aloud the problems on a math sheet she found, likely a leftover from an older sibling. “Five plus four,” she pauses, counting in her head, “is nine.” She carefully writes the number on the line.
And I realize my little learner became a student, mastering new skills and building on old ones.
Life with littles in tow is hard work. It’s exhausting. And it feels as if it will never end. We look forward to the next phase . . . when they’ll be just a little more independent.
But let’s not forget the importance of those little moments with our littles. Let’s not forget that they’re learning big lessons as they help, talk, shop, cook, and walk beside us.
And one day we’ll look down (or maybe up), and we’ll suddenly realize our littles have become our bigs and every moment within that transition mattered.
The hard, exhausting, never-ending work we’ve done, shows in the strong, independent, and beautiful children and young adults they’ve become.
So, I’ll plop my toddler on the counter, I’ll strap him into grocery carts and strollers, and I’ll count his fingers and point out colors and shapes. Because those little things are growing him into a big boy.