When do you stop being a toddler?

Somewhere sandwiched between the marathon of the winter holidays, just about everybody in our family managed to have a birthday.  December is a busy time around here.  For the younger ones, like my daughter, we celebrate more loudly…. for the older set, like myself, we celebrate a bit more quietly.   Still, we always celebrate, grateful for another year for health and happiness.

A Toddler in the Trees celebrates her 5th birthday - it doesn't make her a toddler anymore !

This year, she turned 5 years old.  Half a decade, and it all went by in seemingly the blink of an eye.  I realize that this makes the title of the blog a bit misleading…she’s still in the trees daily, but she’s not so much a toddler anymore.  She probably hasn’t been for about a year, even two, depending on whose definition you take of toddlerhood.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since our collective birthdays, the holidays and the year-end blend into a long season of festivity and milestones.  But what do I call her? A preschooler? A child? A young girl? All are accurate I suppose…  But while she flits and floats away at the school gate just as soon as I drop her off these days, and begs for just ten minutes more to play when I come to pick her up, there is part of me that will always see her as the timid, slightly tearful toddler she was when we first started this school.

A Toddler in the Trees celebrates her 5th birthday - it doesn't make her a toddler anymore

So the name here will stay, as a bit of a nod to that memory.  While she’s no longer a toddler, I haven’t found quite the right moniker and I’m not sure that we’ll need to.

Her 5th birthday serves as a road marker for us, delineating the fact that she’s lived here in Denmark and been in the forest school system, longer than not.  In fact, this has been the longest constant she’s had in her petite life thus far.  Her 5th birthday also reminded me that these constants don’t, and won’t, last.  This would be true regardless of our move, as this is her last year in this school  – she’s “aging out” of the forest school preschool, so to speak.  But with our return to the United States this summer, it’s not just the forest school that will change. There is a whole shifting world that will spin her around this year…

A Toddler in the Trees celebrates her 5th birthday - it doesn't make her a toddler anymore

The shifts will be bittersweet, but part of me is excited to know also that she’s reaching the age where she will remember what she has here.  She will remember the fresh air and the sense of community and the songs and the friends and the unbelievable team of teachers who have supported her transition from the girl who knew no one to the girl who knows everyone.  I’ve been trying to capture more little everyday photos for her, filming clips of her and her friends, of the children singing…just little stuff so that she has some record of all of these foundations laid for her.  I know I will remember it fondly, and I hope she will too.

Ps – if you’re wondering what’s going on with all these sequins and other flummery, this toddler that’s normally in the trees specifically requested a “dance party” for her birthday so dance party it was!

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