Growing Up Can Be Scary
Have you ever noticed the opposing forces we, as parents, feel about our kids growing up?
On the one hand, we can’t wait to celebrate the milestones that indicate our kids are maturing. We even keep track of all of the “firsts” like first foods, first steps, first words, etc. We anxiously await the days that our kids can do MORE so that we can do LESS: go to the bathroom by themselves, get dressed by themselves, get their own snacks from the refrigerator, clean up after themselves, do their own laundry…even drive!
At the same time, we lament the fact that they grow up so quickly and we wish we could prolong their innocence as much as possible. While all those milestones and responsibilities mean MORE FREEDOM for us, it also means MORE FREEDOM for our kids and LESS CONTROL for us. And that…can be…scary.
The other day, a friend of mine with two teenagers told me, “I don’t want to grow up. It sucks to have to be mature and responsible all the time. I just want to have a temper tantrum and act the way I want to act.”
If growing up is even hard for us grown-ups, imagine how our kids feel. They feel opposing forces, too. They desperately want to grow up and be independent like Mom and Dad. Yet sometimes that independence freaks them out and all they want to do is be a kid without any responsibility at all.
Have you ever experienced these things with your child?
- He reverts to using “baby” talk.
- He claims he can't get dressed by himself when he's been doing it for awhile.
- He took the training wheels off his bike and then wanted them back on.
- He asks to help you with a task in the kitchen, but abandons the job halfway through.
These situations can frustrate parents because we say to ourselves, “I thought we were past this already.” We may make statements like, “Stop being such a baby” or “You asked for this. I told you you weren't ready yet.” We might even throw up our hands and yell, “Make up your mind already!”
The point is that having more responsibilities and the expectations that go along with them can create a lot of anxiety for kids, too. If we can remember that, we can be more compassionate when they seem to regress, instead of demanding that they “grow up.”
Last Friday, my husband said he couldn’t take ONE MORE morning of our daughter, Dalia, screaming “MOMEEEEEE!” at the top of her lungs upon waking up in her crib. He insisted that she transition to a bed so that she could come into our room instead of yelling and waking up the entire house. That day, I bought a bed and it was delivered the following morning.
Saturday night marked her first night in a “big girl” bed. She seemed so excited and proud, but the next night she confided, “Mom, I miss my crib.” (Yes, this big girl recently started calling me “Mom” instead of “Mommy.”)
I put myself in her shoes and tried to imagine what it must feel like to go from a 28″ x 52″ crib mattress to a 39″ x 75″ twin mattress and to no longer have to look at the room through slats. I also thought about the fact that she no longer needed to depend on anyone to take her out of her room. Suddenly, she could come and go as she pleased. Everyone was making a big fuss over it and assuming that she would be overjoyed. Just thinking about this transition from her perspective caused butterflies in my stomach.
I snuggled up next to her (something I could never do before when she was in a crib) and said softly, “I know.” After a few moments of silent cuddling, I told her how much I loved being able to get into bed with her and snuggle. She agreed it was pretty awesome. Then, as quickly as her yearning appeared, it faded. She turned to me and she said, “Goodnight, Mom.”
“Goodnight, sweetheart,” I said. I kissed her face and left the room.
When I was halfway down the hall she called out, “I love you, Mom!”
“I love you, too!” I answered.
I don't make this stuff up, people.
Do you have conflicting feelings about your kids growing up? Are there certain experiences or situations that bring those feelings to the surface? Have you noticed your kids vacillating between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay a kid? Please leave a comment below and tell us all about it.
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