My Facebook memories are killing me lately. All the back-to-school pictures I dutifully posted every year keep popping up to haunt me with remembrances of tiny children past.

Pictures of my now-surly teenager with pigtails and polo shirt, clutching a Hello Kitty lunchbox, smiling shyly on the first day of pre-K … a far cry from last week, when she skulked off to school in a crop top and a hoodie, purple streaks in her hair, refusing to pose for a first day picture or even take the $5 I tried to force on her to buy lunch. 

Pictures of Georgia, at 2, in her monogrammed Curious George shirt with chevron bloomers and the rainboots she insisted on wearing in all sorts of weather, her ever-present binky sticking jauntily out of her mouth … now she is starting middle school, gangly and shaggy with glasses and an armful of friendship bracelets, an absolute perfect portrait of middle school awkwardness. 

It’s not that I want to go back to those days in the photographs. My kids were certainly cute back in the early-to-mid 2010s, but they were also needier and grosser and almost impossible to reason with. There were days when Ruby was 6 and Georgia was 1 that I counted every minute until bedtime, when I was so tired and spread so thin. 

Most days, I love having a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old. We have nuanced discussions about the world. We can eat at restaurants without causing a scene. They make jokes that are actually funny. Their bathroom habits are no longer any of my business. They’re capable of feeding themselves and entertaining themselves. I’ve caught up on TV shows and books that I missed back when I was in the thick of it. (Seriously, circa 2014, I used to listen to people at work talking about sitcoms and I would think to myself, “Will I ever have leisure time again?”) 

All the same, it’s still nothing but bittersweet to fully acknowledge that those wee small people are gone, morphed into the amazing tween and teen I have now. I love these new, taller, older people. And yet I miss the babies they were. I’m grateful for this privilege, this opportunity to watch them become who they are going to be, but it’s not free from sorrow or wistfulness.

As they start a new school year – grades 5 and 10, officially middle school and high school – I still sometimes see them in my mind’s eye as the babies on the front porch of our old house, all those years ago. 

But more than anything, I’m excited to see where they’re going to go, this school year and beyond.