I remember when my son turned six last year like it was just yesterday. He was so excited to turn six, asking me “how many more days till my birthday?” and ticking days off the calendar.

Apparently, the excitement of six wears off really fast.

“Mommy, when will I be seven?” he asked me the day after his sixth birthday. I laughed.

“Slow your roll, kid. Enjoy being six.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because six is the best age,” I answered. I don’t know what logic went into my answer. Probably none. It seemed like the thing to say at the time.

That little boy who was so eager to be seven just had his seventh birthday. As I watched him blow out his candles, I remembered that moment the year before when I told him that six was the best age. I blinked and poof… that year was gone.

But maybe seven is the best age.

At seven, the baby stage is officially over, although I see fleeting glimpses of babyhood in my son. The way he rubs his eyes when he’s sleepy or asks to be picked up and carried. He doesn’t ask very often anymore and although it’s a strain on my back, I can still pick him up, so I do. I know one of those times he asks to be picked up will be the last time he asks. As the mom of a newly minted seven-year-old, I am acutely aware of the lasts.

“Mommy, can I set the table for breakfast?” he bursts into the kitchen where I frown in the direction of the Keurig, waiting for the “ready to brew” light to come on. Seven-year-olds are epic helpers. They’re eager to prove how strong and capable they are. See also: eager for approval. My son lights up when I smile and ruffle his head and praise him for helping me put glasses of milk and napkins on the table. What he lacks in precision, he makes up for in enthusiasm.

Yes, seven is the best age.

“Because I said so” nears the expiration date. I find myself (not so) patiently launching into lengthy explanations of why he can’t stay up late and play Minecraft and being kind of impressed with the logic of the arguments he presents. When I fuss at him because he’s left a Nerf gun, an empty juice box, and one dirty sock in the middle of the living room, I see the defiant scowl that will soon morph into full-blown tween attitude and I tell myself I am not ready for that shit yet.

But, I think seven is still the best age.

At seven, the memories my son makes today are the memories of childhood that he will carry throughout his life. Do you remember things that happened when you were seven? Chances are, you do. A seven-year-old misses nothing. At five, and six, my husband and I could “talk in code” in front of our kids. We could discuss current events, family issues or even our next date night and unless we used buzz words like ice cream, bedtime, or Disney, most of our chatter sailed right over their heads.

At seven, little ears hone in on words like racist, cancer, and debt. They want to be part of the conversation and it’s both a reminder to be more cognizant of the time and place for adults-only chats and an opportunity to talk about hard things. Most seven-year-olds may not fully realize the ugly in this world but the answers to the questions they ask chip away at their innocence. We struggle to find balance in helping them learn and keeping them wrapped in the cocoon of childhood for just a little bit longer.

A seven-year-old is starting to place more emphasis on the opinions of friends and peers. Although mom and dad are still the center of his universe, he is starting to look beyond the comfort and security of his family because he’s starting to fully realize that the world is a big, exciting (albeit sometimes scary) place.

At seven, farts, burps, and underpants are hysterically funny. Mickey Mouse is still magical, but super heroes and video games that go boom are starting to compete for top billing.

I still think seven is the best age.

Developmentally, seven is a transitional age. A child of seven can reason and pay attention longer than a child of six. A seven-year-old is learning that life has rules, structure, and consequences.

And, when the rules, structure, and consequences, get to be a little intense for seven?

We hold them tight… because they still let us. We inhale the smell of sweaty little kid head that always manages to smell like sweaty puppy head and we probably don’t stop to take enough time to appreciate this snippet of time when our kids don’t… well, don’t smell gross.

Seven is the best age. A seven-year-old can wipe their own butt – never estimate the power of butt wiping. They can follow complex directions, like get your shoes on, turn off the bathroom light and meet me by the door.

They can tell you what they’re thinking and feeling. See also: they’ll not hesitate to tell the cashier at your favorite grocery store that your blue underpants have a hole in the butt. That’s always fun.

I still think seven is the best age.

Seven makes us realize our mortality. Seven makes us wish time would stop, although time does not stop. At seven, we realize that we must let them grow up, much sooner than we’d like.

And we will sigh and release our hold on our seven-year-olds. We let them fly and stand in the wings and hope they will still need us when they are eight.

And, we live for the hope that our eight-year-olds will need us for just a little longer.

Because, perhaps eight is the best age.