I am begging with you. Pleading. Please quit wishing that your kids would grow up. Please quit being annoyed that they want to be held, that they can’t reach something, that they ask for you in the night. Please, for your motherly heart and for the sake of your child… let your kids just be kids.
What is this obsession with independence in children? Why are we in such a hurry for our kids to go grow up? I often wonder if I am the only parent frantically scrambling to remember every tiny moment with my kids as they are now. My three year old is brilliant and growing more independent every day; my daughter turns one year old this week, she’s determined and strong and a menace, and I don’t know that we’ll ever have another baby. My heart is bursting with pride, and breaking with sorrow, all at the same time.
A few months ago, I was watching with a sleeping baby at the sidelines of my son’s soccer class. I observed the other parents in the class of 2-3 year olds and was so disheartened at what I saw. Most of the parents were all too ready to hand their kids off to the coaches (even though it was a parent-child class), and a few parents were trying to push their kids to the point of it being inappropriate. May I remind you, this was a class of 2 and 3 year olds.
One mom in particular was setting her daughter up to fail, by yelling at her child in front of the other parents because the girl wasn’t really participating. After listening for a moment, my heart sank when she said “I know it’s your nap time, but do you want to play some more or do you want to go to sleep?” Most kids, as you can guess, won’t admit when they need to sleep. They’ll want to play. But the mom tried to put the decision in the lap of her toddler. The kid was already overtired, and no matter what she said she was going to lose. And the mom continued to yell at her for the rest of the class.
I’ve seen parents micromanage their kids at the library because they weren’t turning a book page properly; parents who get onto their kids for not eating fast enough, or not using a fork; for hopping to the door instead of walking. If it’s an issue of safety, then I back you all the way. If there’s a limit that must be set, then set it and do so confidently.
But maybe, just maybe, we should see our kids as they are in this moment.
Please, let your children be children.
Let them be unique and fearless and imaginative and hilarious. Let them play in their own way, even if that means they put the cape on backwards or don’t stack the blocks perfectly. Let them explore and be unafraid to make mistakes in a world which is so much more beautiful because it’s not just black-and-white. Let them discover on their own, making inferences and coming to conclusions and thinking of predictions.
I know we’re all busy, we’re stressed, money is tight and there are never enough hours in the day. I’m there with you in the trenches, and I see you friend. But I am also the loving friend shaking your shoulders and saying, “You’re missing it! You’re missing your kids being goofy before society tells them to work harder and longer. You’re missing your kids giggling in bed because they still want to hear your stupid stories with your stupid voices. You’re missing the hugs and the dirty knees and the peanut butter kisses and the way your child relaxes in your arms. You’re so busy being distracted by life, and wanting your kids to grow up, that before long you’ll get your wish. And then you will be brokenhearted, and it will be too late.”
Your kids will need you less and less every day, and I promise you that you will miss them as tiny children who needed and adored you.
So cherish the weird things they say, the ridiculous songs they sing and the free-spirited way they play. Smile at them when they make a noodle mustache, and nod enthusiastically when they ask if you can see “the spaceship” amidst the playroom chaos. Don’t extinguish that flame of creativity, fan it.
Do what you can to love them as little kids, because I’ll tell you my friend: you can’t stop time. And your children will one day grow up, whether or not you’re ready.