parent opinion

'I am in the golden age of parenting. So why do I feel so sad?'

Most mornings, as I walk my six-year-old son to school, he skips along beside me, holding my hand.

He tells me what is happening for the day and asks questions about what we are doing after school. Some days I am in a distracted rush – too busy thinking about deadlines, emails or groceries I need from the supermarket to pay much attention – and other days, like today, the whole walk is in technicolour.

I listen intently and ask him questions then kiss his little hand and make memories of this simple, carefree exchange. Occasionally I take a photo of these seemingly mundane moments so that one day I can show him how important this daily ritual was to me.

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I realised recently that with two boys aged six and 12, we are in our 'golden age' of parenting – and I don't want it to end. Even though I know it will – and soon.

I used to take this same walk to school with my eldest son and I remember watching his curly head bound along beside me as he chatted animatedly. 

I don't know when exactly he stopped holding my hand or bouncing like a puppy, because I also had a needy toddler to worry about and hold on to.


I feel sad looking back that I was too busy to notice the loss, and it only makes me sadder that this transition is still to come with my youngest.

While I am sad about letting go of this golden age, I am happy to be through the intensity of those early mothering years. I don't miss the nappies and the tantrums, and I especially don't miss the sleepless nights or the restrictive nap scheduling. 

When they were both in their baby and toddler stages, I spent so much time wishing it away so I could get to the 'golden age' of parenting where I am now. I look back at their gorgeous baby photos and long for one more cuddle or squish of their chubby little feet, but I haven't got so far along in life that I can't remember the tough times – and I don't really want to be back there.

Will I one day feel the same about this stage of parenting, when my boys are proper teenagers or adults who no longer want to spend time with me, let alone hold my hand? 

It feels unlikely – because I know, as a parent, these are THE times.

My youngest son who still holds my hand on that precious walk to school, kisses me goodbye at the gate and waves me off happily. 

At home, his bed is full of teddies and other soft toys that he loves to line up and speak to in a secret language. He is as happy to kick a ball around the park with me as he is to get his toenails painted at the salon for a treat. He loves the sparkly bright colours and giggles at the massage chair tapping his back.

He is wide-eyed and invested in who will win the Quidditch match as we read Harry Potter together for the first time, and when I go into his room to wake him in the morning, he is smiling and happy to see me (and the teddies), free from worries about the day ahead.


He loves birthday parties and lollies and is happy when the weekend rolls around and we can hang out as a family. He is independent enough to go to the toilet alone, put on his shoes and socks (sometimes!) and climb into his car seat. 

There is much to love about this parenting phase and I am holding on to all of it as hard as I can.

My eldest turns 13 this year, and he is in his first year of high school. 


He is studious and interested in playing sports, mountain biking with mates and gaming. He gets himself ready and goes to school with no complaints each day. He still listens to us (mostly) and can be very helpful at home and with his younger brother.

Ever so slowly, however, my husband and I are noticing subtle – and very normal – changes as he grows into his teenage self.

Occasionally I see glimpses of the sweet little boy he was in his serious fine-featured 12-year-old face and my heart breaks a little. 

I adore him now, but I also miss his younger self and I know one day I will also yearn for this pre-teen phase. I am attempting to treasure all his solid hugs, interesting chats and good communication while I still can.

I feel as if I am currently in the eye of the storm between the chaos of my youngest's toddler years and my eldest's teenager-hood. I want to make every moment count and be more present, but life is busy, and it's not always possible.

And how would I ever get anything done at work or home or for fun if I was permanently in an emotional state of paralysis trying to make time stand still?

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I know my smugness about these heady golden days will not last much longer. Change is coming.

I think back to when my eldest was six years old and our much-wanted second child, his little brother, was born.

I missed out on many moments of his infant school years because I was simply exhausted and 'touched out' from spending all day and night with a newborn. Plenty of hugs and chats with him were passed over in favour of self-care and sleep, and while I know I did what I could, I feel sad I wasn't more present.


But the realisation I didn't cherish my eldest's early primary school era means I am now appreciating and holding onto my youngest being in this 'golden' phase even more.

Childhood is fleeting and one day soon our weekend trips to the nail salon will be done and the teddies will be gone from his pillow.

He won't need to hold my hand on the way to school and won't want to kiss me goodbye at the gate.

I am sad because I love this golden era of our shared family life, where both of my boys are in great phases and my husband and I are healthy and happy. 

I want to stop time – but I know that change is inevitable.

And we will be okay because we love them dearly, whatever age or stage they are at.

We have experienced enough of life to know how quickly phases come and go, so knowing this, I am trying to enjoy the little moments as much as I can. 

The walks to school with my youngest's hand in mine are, for now, still the very best of times, and at least I'll always have the photos to show him just how important they were. 

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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