Lederman: Do Kids Really Grow Up ‘Too Fast’?Written by Leah Lederman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My dad always hated Peter Pan. We’d watch the movie, as kids, and he’d warn us, “Peter Pan is a monster.”
Hear me out.
My dad’s argument, as I’ve fleshed it out over the years, is that there is something fundamentally wrong with someone who deliberately refuses to grow up and obstinately insists on residing in a “never-never land” of their own making. Think: sociopath.
Sure, it’s important to be imaginative, creative and the like. It’s also important to grow up. There’s something inherently dangerous about consciously choosing not to advance through proper developmental stages (at least those that are within that individual’s personal capacity). It’s even more dangerous when that person aims to recruit.
When I’m with my son anywhere, be it family gatherings, the grocery store or the park, I hear, “Enjoy it now — they grow up so fast!” Yes, life does go by quickly. For this reason, my father encouraged me to keep a journal and scrapbook things like ticket stubs, concert programs and Polaroid pictures. After all, we can never get enough of the things we enjoy.
And I enjoy my child. There is a natural and organic love in me that I never knew myself capable of (dare I call it “maternal?”). He presents me with a book and sits down on my lap with a perfunctory, diapery crunch. I read B is for Books for the third time that hour, making all the voices and counting every shape and object on each page — if I don’t, he blinks at me and emits a questioning syllabic note. When I do it just right, he unplugs the pacifier with a decided “smoock” sound and plants a kiss (with equal suction) on my face. Like many of you, my child is the backdrop against which every thought I have in a day plays out.
Did I bronze his first solid poop? Not exactly. His first pair of shoes? Even if it were an idea that appealed to me, it’d be impossible because instead of being bronzed, they are embedded in the mud in the backyard, forever a fossil testifying to future generations that sometimes little children play in the mud, lose their shoes, and delightedly discover the feel of the squish between their toes. He donated a pair of sandals to the Atlantic, too.
But not every aspect of parenthood is so enjoyable. The nagging refrain “they grow up too fast” is merely an addition to the innately guilty consciences of parents of young children; parents who have not slept through the night in months; parents who have to work to afford a future for their children, whose a child who may not be with them for waking hours, who are desperately clinging to each waking moment.
Do people really wish their children were babies again? Have they forgotten the sleepless nights, having to change eight different onesies a day due to poop explosions, spit-up explosions, mud puddles and more? Remember the fecal finger-paint? The detonation of the baby-powder tub? It’s funny now, for many of you reading this, but only because time has gone by.
I’m glad my son doesn’t poop eight times a day anymore (at least, on a good day). I’m glad he understands when I talk to him, and that he can run and stumble in the backyard. Pretty soon he’ll add some talk to that walk and as he gets older there will be some tang to that talk. But through it all, whether it’s Sesame Street, motorcycles, love or Shakespeare, I look forward to seeing what time will bring. If time moves as quickly as we all know it does, then there’s certainly not enough time for dwelling on things already come by, and kicking ourselves for time not yet lost.
Chiding children at social events or in public places that they are “growing up too fast” does nothing to relieve their parents’ sense of frustration as their young children, naturally, encroach upon mom and dad’s livelihoods. And by livelihood I mean the ability to sit through a 22 minute sitcom uninterrupted. Read a non Muppet-themed book that isn’t covered in crayon, uninterrupted. Take a shower, uninterrupted. Use the restroom, uninterrupted — you get my point.
I enjoy my child every day. I also enjoy my job, thoroughly, and I’m thankful for the moments I receive a chance to be “me” again. This “me” is forever changed, of course, since my son was born, and it changes every day that we create new memories together. I know that on his first day of school, at his high school graduation, and on his wedding day, I’ll think about B is for Books and I’ll smile. But let’s not mistake nostalgia for sadness or regret; and let’s not allow my son to feel guilty for growing up, or myself to feel guilty for “lost time.”
While I’m not going to forbid my children to watch or read Peter Pan (and I won’t make it a “monster” story), I’ll certainly encourage them to take the Wendy approach. Grow up at your own pace, pick up as many wonderful memories as possible, and cherish them. Never-never land is a nice place to visit, it’s a nice place to remember, but it’s never a place to stay forever.
Leah Lederman lives in Toledo with her husband, their 19-month-old son and a boxer puppy. She has 11 nieces and nephews.