By Kelly Hines

There is something lovely and wonderful about each stage of a child’s life, but every parent has their favorite. Some people love the itty-bitty newborn stage, when babies can assume the frog on a log position for hours. Some of us love roly poly six month olds, or into everything two year olds, or endlessly inquisitive four year olds. There are parents who appreciate the growing maturity of a ten year old, or the kick it into high gear hormone-y twelve year old. I have heard that there are even people who like teenagers the best (though I’ve never met a parent who claimed this until after their children were grown!).

For me, there is one very specific, exceptionally delightful age: Eight.

Lucky for me, I have one of those right now. Eight year olds are awesome. Old enough to handle basic self-care, but little enough to still want to crawl up in your lap. Smart without being too sassy, and enthusiastic about everything. Never jaded, an eight year old will still gladly go to the grocery store and find great joy in just hanging out.

Eight year olds are finding out about the world around them. Third grade is exceedingly interesting. They’re reading novels and exploring space and moving beyond rudimentary math and learning concepts. Somedays, I can almost see the connections being made in my daughter’s head. Eight year olds want to learn, and they’re focused on the process, without the burden of results. End of grade testing aside, third grade is a time of joy in education.

Friendships are still broad and accepting and innocent. Everyone my eight year old knows is her best friend. She roams the neighborhood with a pack of girls and they plot sleepovers and scheme lemonade stands and when they do argue, they get over it. When they are all grown and think back to their eight year old self, they will remember these friends. They will remember their adventures together and wonder where they are now and try to find them on Facebook.

Eight year olds love. Eight year olds will still let you kiss them goodbye in front of their friends. They will hold your hand to cross the street without a fuss. An eight year old will tell you you’re fancy when you put on a little lip gloss. They will rub your tummy and tell you you’re squishy and somehow, it’s a compliment. An eight year old knows that there is no better cure for what ails them than a big dose of Mama love.

Eight year olds are, in fact, pretty smart about that.

They’re sensitive. I spent half an hour the other night loving on my eight year old because she announced, out of nowhere, her deep and terrifying fear that I will die. Despite her burgeoning social life and love of Shopkins and Beanie Boos, I am still very much the center of her world. Her poor little body was shaking and I repeated platitudes, “I’m so young! I’m healthy! Don’t worry!”, when inside my head I kept thinking, “Me, too, baby. Me, too!” Mamas are just as sensitive as eight year olds.

And five year olds, and fifteen year olds, and 25 year olds. Because they’re always our sweet babies, at every age. They may not always willingly hold our hands or say I love you, but they are ours, and that makes them delightful at all stages.

Just more so when they’re eight.