I’ll admit I am oversensitive when it comes to WORDS used. I think words matter and actually have transformative power. (Science backs me up on this by the way.)
So it’s not uncommon to hear me say around my house, “Precision of Language please!” (from “The Giver”) I want my kids to find the words to express exactly what they mean.
Like when Elle comes home from school and says, “It was the worst day ever!” I stop her and ask, “Did your mom die? Did your grandma die? Did you get kidnapped? Ok. Then, it wasn’t the worst day ever. Maybe it was a frustrating day or a boring day or a sad day, but it wasn’t the worst day ever… Now let’s talk about what happened today.”
Or like when Crew says, “I hate my life.” I jump in and set him straight. “Really. You hate that you have both sets of grandparents still alive and they love you. You hate that your parents are still happily married. You hate that you were blessed with good looks and athletic ability and a charismatic personality. Tell me whose life you’d rather have? (He’s usually smiling at this point)….. Ok. Now what’s really bothering you?”
I even carry my word judgement over into hashtags. The two hashtags I disdain the most are #stopgrowing and #nevergrowup.
Think about what these hashtags are saying.
I’m sure my friend whose son literally did stop growing and now has to be on all kinds of growth hormones and medications can tell you how fun it is to actually have a kid #stopgrowing.
Or maybe my sister who lost her 2 1/2 year old son to pneumonia can tell you what it’s like to have a child #nevergrowup.
My husband tells me I’m taking the hashtags too literally and that I’m way too uptight about some afterthoughts on Instagram.
He’s right. I know he’s right.
It is the message behind the hashtag that I should look at. I know the moms are well meaning and sentimental. The moms are just trying to say #thisispainfultoseetimepassbeforemyeyes #timeispassingtooquickly #imworriedImnotmakingthemostofthismoment #iwantmykidstostayinnocentforever #ilovethisstagewithmychildren or even just #ilovemychildrenbeinglittle
But those hashtags are unreadable and not as catchy so we resort to #stopgrowing and #nevergrowup even though the literal meaning of these phrases usually involves a serious medical condition or a tragedy.
I’m working on judging these hashtags less because I think these hashtags are really based on fear– fear of the unknown, fear that the future won’t be as great as the present, fear that we’ll miss something or won’t remember something, fear that we’ll have regrets, fear that parenting older children isn’t as special as parenting littles, fear that the parent/child relationship will change as the kids get older, etc. etc.
So I’m here, as a little bit older mom, to hopefully calm some of the young moms’ fears.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay to have your children grow up. In fact, it is actually pretty great. Of course there are some difficult aspects of parenting older children, but that’s how life goes. There are beautiful parts and hard parts in every stage of parenting.
I don’t get to look into cute faces with toothless grins and chubby cheeks anymore. But I do get to look into beautiful faces. Handsome faces.
I don’t get to enjoy nap time anymore, but I do get to sleep through the night.
I don’t get to see the kids sit on Santa’s lap anymore. Not as many kids are excited to leave a plate of cookies or look outside for reindeer tracks. But I do get to see my children give gifts to each other in a meaningful way. I get to see them buy presents for each sibling using their own, hard-earned money. The hugs exchanged last Christmas morning because of sibling gifts warmed my heart more than any excitement over a Santa gift ever has. Sure they don’t all believe as much anymore, but with Santa out of the picture, we are getting closer and closer to the real meaning of Christmas.
I don’t get to watch my kids run to the wrong base anymore or see them in their baggy uniforms. I don’t get to see them swing the wrong direction or feel the excitement when they get their first hit. But I do get to watch my son hit legitimate doubles and triples. (I’m anxiously awaiting his first over the fence home-run.) I get to see him score a winning run in a tied game. I get to see him field a hard ground ball at third and then fire the ball to first for the out. I get to see him throw fastball after fastball and then freeze a guy with a change-up.
I don’t get to cheer at my daughter’s dance recitals anymore because she was adorable in her little costume or because she did so well following her teacher or because her dance moves were darling. But I do get to cheer because her dance was technical and beautiful. I get to cheer because she is mastering dancing on her toes on a little wooden box. I get to see her dedication and hard work pay off on stage.
I don’t get to shop in the baby and toddler sections anymore where the clothes are way cuter and cheaper. I don’t get to dress my kids exactly how I would like. Gone are the days where I bring something home and they wear it. But I do get to take my kids’ shopping with me and it’s actually fun. We get to try on clothes together, and we get to talk about fit, modesty, fashion, and style. My kids are even old enough to understand “no” and “budget.” And my daughter and I are just a half size off from sharing shoes. The future is bright.
I don’t get to have as much say anymore and plan things just like I would like. My agenda doesn’t rule the schedule anymore. But I do get to hear my children contribute meaningful ideas, solutions, and help to our family councils. We get to work together on projects instead of me doing everything for them.
I don’t get to read board books and picture books as much anymore. We don’t all fit together onto one big recliner chair as we read before bedtime. But we do get to read classic novels that make us pause and think and question and wonder. The stories I tell my children now are about different kinds of princes and princesses and pigs and wolves. I have cried, laughed, and squealed with my older children over books and that feels just as good as any rhyming board book ever could.
I don’t get to put the kids to bed at 8:00 pm anymore and then have the night to myself. But I do get to snuggle by my 10-year-old son late at night and have him ask me, “How did your activity go, mom? I want to hear all about it.” or have him fake that he has a secret to tell me just so I will stay in his room longer. Just last night it was almost 11:00 pm and my husband and I were both in bed. My oldest daughter was still up working on a school project. She peeked in our room and said, “I started the dishwasher. Good night. Love you.” Sometimes our kids tuck us in now.
I don’t get to spoon feed anyone dinner or make Dino chicken nuggets much anymore. I don’t get to sing any songs at mealtime or cut foods into cute shapes. But I do get to sit down to a meal at a real table. We all pass to the right, eat our food, and have rewarding conversation. When we are finished we all do dishes together.
I don’t get to put up as much cute artwork on my fridge, but I do get to decorate with glass.
So while there is definitely a part of me that gets sad when I see their baby faces in old pictures and I miss the less busy days at home or their cute little voices or their solvable problems, I really wouldn’t want things to stay that way. Growth is why we came to earth. Growth is a sign of life.
What we have now with our older children is just as beautiful and it’s just as messy as life was with our littles, but in a different way.
I promise to ease up on judging the hashtags from the well meaning moms. But will you promise me that you’ll give your children permission to grow up? Let them grow up with grace. Don’t fight the inevitable. Don’t begrudge what will surely be.
Do enjoy and cherish every stage. Do slow down and be in the moment, but with no fear of the future because there is nothing to fear. I’m hopeful that moms with kids even older than mine can assure us that there is beauty and joy there as well – high school, college, marriage, and grandkids will bring a whole other set of joys, challenges and pains.
In the end we want our kids to #keepgrowing. Afterall, continual growth is the healthiest and happiest way to live life.
(Now I need to work on getting over #29agin and #sorrynotsorry)