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Published: Sunday, June 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Backyard campouts will all too soon be just a memory

Last night, my 8-year-old son and I camped out in the back yard.

It was supposed to be a family affair, but my 3-year-old daughter wouldn't stop singing loudly. By 10 p.m., Daddy was zooming her inside to the house like an airplane (under great duress).

So then it was just my newly minted third-grader and me.

As we lay there together listening to the wind outside our tent, I realized how much things have changed.

Gone were the days of zooming him around like an airplane. Gone were the nights of rocking him to sleep endlessly, and wondering what was on television. Gone were the 3 a.m. wakeups and 5 a.m. snuggles.

Maybe you sometimes look at your own son and think of these things, too.

One day you're playing Russian roulette with Pull-Ups at bedtime -- "Do I feel lucky or am I doing laundry tomorrow?" -- the next you're folding boxer briefs that are too small to be your husband's, but nearly identical.

One day your heart hurts just to leave your 6-month-old with Grammy for a few hours because you can't bear to be apart; the next you're waiting at the bus stop and you get a call from school telling you that your son is in the office.

"What! I was driving him home? He's not taking the bus today? How could I forget my own kid!"

Out there in the back yard, I remembered it all.

Sometimes I wish that we got our children's ages in shifts. Monday they would be a baby, Tuesday a toddler, Wednesday a terrible 2-year-old, and a couple of weeks later you'd be teaching them to drive. Then the clock would rewind and you would start the cycle all over again the next month.

Maybe that would help us meet the challenges of each stage, while appreciating the high points, too.

Unfortunately, life isn't like that.

Instead of monthly doses of Bob the Builder, we get all Bob, all the time, for a full year. Then comes Star Wars, an obsession that lingers, followed by Legos, Ninjago and Pokemon.

Then, before you know it, you're listening to a 10-minute explanation of Minecraft and you still don't understand what your son is talking about.

"Is this the game where monkeys blow up balloons? I stopped paying attention when you started talking about mining for ore."

Wiser parents than I could probably chime in here about what's to come.

"If you thought Pokemon was bad, wait until you get to X,Y and Z!" (Collective parental shudder.)

It can be scary to contemplate, but sad, too. There're not many years of childhood left. I know it. I can see it right in front of me.

Today I woke up cuddled next to my third-grader. In a future tomorrow, that will never happen again.

The clock is ticking and there's no way to rewind it. I need to start paying better attention.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

Story tags » Parenting

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