One of the challenges of parenting is getting used to the idea that those teeny babies have the nerve to grow up.
Lately when I’m asked how old my daughter is, I say “almost four,” and a ball of feelings in my chest throbs a little.1 Four! She’s getting older. The weekly BabyCenter emails have told me that this would happen. Four is not a baby. Four is a child. Four can start school. Four can retain memories and fuzzily recall them as an adult.
Having a four-year-old makes me feel less special than having a child of three or two or one. Older children are less interesting, and as we are just reflections of our children, so are we. No one wants to hear about what your twelve-year-old is doing. OK, none of that is true. But I had to get it out there because I have worried that it might be.
Now that my child’s age is best measured in years and not months, nothing reminds me of how much bigger and older she’s getting than her starting preschool, and that next year she’ll start real school. Late summer makes people weepy for their babies that are no longer babies, so here is my recommendation to you if you are like that, too: Get over it.
I have to tell this to myself constantly because despite the fact that she keeps wearing a pair of 18-month-sized shorts that I keep putting away, my daughter is growing up. It’s harder for me to carry her for very long. She doesn’t fit in my lap comfortably. She seems too old for a stroller (not that she’s been using one lately, but it’s a nice thought). To want her to stay as small as she is, as funny and crazy as she is, and to love me as much as she does, is an idea that I have to keep letting go of.
The main reason I don’t want to get emotional about her inevitable aging, other than the fact that I can’t control it, is that i don’t want her to think she’s doing something wrong by growing up. I don’t want her to feel guilty that all the adults in her life bemoan that she’s not a baby. I can’t imagine that pleas of “stop getting bigger” or “you’re not a baby anymore” go unanalyzed by her. How does that not sound like “you’re disappointing me”?
She will be a kid for a long time, though. And she has so many great kid things to discover that dumb three-year-olds can’t get into yet. When I feel sad about my baby growing up, I am comforted by the following things:
She will one day be old enough to:
- Watch The Goonies, Princess Mononoke, The Princess Bride, E.T., Freaks and Geeks, The Simpsons,2 and other amazing shows and movies.
- Read the Little House books
- Stay at home by herself
- Sit in the passenger’s seat
- Want to eat something other than breakfast food
Even though I get sad that she’s shedding those baby ways,3 it’s not hard not having a baby. The only thing I miss about her being an actual baby is that she slept in her Baby Bjorn, which was nice for museum visits, and that she used to sleep 11 hours each night. I prefer where she’s is now–where she can communicate with us like a real person, even though that means she’s walking out of her room at 10:00 PM telling us her brain won’t let her sleep.
At every age she’s been, that has been my favorite age so far. So, buck up, parents who are having a hard time letting those babies grow up. They stay special no matter what age.
Photo by: RTD Photograph
- This is not my heart. I think it’s a penny I accidentally swallowed that now responds to my emotions. ↩
- My parents took me to see E.T. three times in the theater when I was her age, and I remember that experience and loved E.T. so much as a kid. Now that she’s that age, I can’t imagine her watching E.T right now. It seems so dark and scary. What was wrong with my parents? The 80s, man. ↩
- I realized as I wrote this that she no longer says “last morning” instead of “yesterday.” That was a good one. ↩