Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Last night, my husband Jimmy and I were talking about how fast time, at least as it pertains to our children, has flown. Our 14-year-old daughter, Maggie, is planning her first Halloween trick-or-treating adventure away from home and out with friends. She spent her first Halloween dressed as a pumpkin when she was less than a month old, too small to even hold her head up by herself. The next year, she was an angel, and we pulled her around in a little red wagon to gather treats.

Our younger child, Robert, who is 12, arrived 22 months after Maggie. He too was a pumpkin on his first Halloween, but did not follow with the angel wings. He will have several friends joining him for trick-or-treating in our suburban Atlanta neighborhood.

Our first few years as parents are a bit of a blur. Those of you who have, or have had, babies and toddlers, you know how hands-on they can be. Toddlers cannot be left alone, at least not for long, because they will get into trouble. It's a lot of physical work when children are young: dressing, undressing, changing diapers, feeding, cleaning up, taking for a walk, strapping into a car seat, bathing, putting to bed.

I soon learned that. When they went down for a nap, I too had to lay down and rest or I would not make it through the day. Bedtimes were early and dinner earlier still. When they were young, it seemed to me as if they would always be with us. Our lives were structured around naps, meal times, bed and bath. It was all absorbing and all engrossing.

They are both now in middle school, independent and focused on friends. Friends influence everything from their choice of costumes to their activities. The focus is not physical, but mental and emotional: How to deal with problems and resolve issues.

Last night, the realization that we only have four more years before Maggie goes to college, and that Robert will be out of the house in half the time he has already spent in it made me realize: Time really does fly.

The big transitions mark the passage: Moving from a few days a week in school to five days a week; moving from preschool to elementary school to middle school to high school. We are in the elementary school phase, where the focus is family, friends, school and activities. Afternoons are busy with homework, activities and connecting with friends.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.