They tell you many things about your child growing up. They tell you about milestones and pitfalls, they tell you about the best and worst moments, they tell you how relieved you will feel as your child becomes more independent. But here’s what they don’t tell you about your child growing up.
There will come a day out of the blue and all too sudden, when your child will suddenly grow out of something that you are so used to. And that’s going to crush you.
It was a day much like any other and I was driving my son to school. Just as I was turning into his school, my five-year-old pointed at a tree excitedly, and asked me if it was autumn. Its leaves were orange and many had fallen to the ground.
Autumn. The season of change. The time to let go. Why didn’t I know?
As I mumbled something about autumn, little did I realise how symbolic it all was. The orange, fallen leaves that he had pointed out were foreshadowing what was to come in just a few minutes.
I carried him out of the car as I always would and suddenly I realised that he was wriggling out of my arms. Then those words hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Mummy, put me down. My friends are looking”.
I gently placed him down and my mind was filled with emotions and yet so blank. I watched him bolting off to his friends. I watched my little kite fly, his spirit free with such abandon while it weighed heavily upon my heart that I had to take two steps back and watch my child growing up.
People told me that the experience of my child growing up would be bittersweet. I always thought it would happen so slowly that I would barely realise it and then someday I would look back in nostalgic yearning. Little had I known that it would happen so suddenly, and in such a soul-crushing manner.
You just never know when they will decide to start taking those on their own.
So what they don’t tell you about your child growing up is that it happens when you’re least expecting it. One day your child is fine with you carrying him and the next day he’s not up to it. Because he grew up overnight, just like that. That’s what it’s like.
What they don’t tell you about your child growing up is that the very thing that you yearned for them to do, like sleeping through the night without knocking on your door, not asking you to sing You are my sunshine for the eighty-seventh time before they sleep, and yes, walking to their class on their own, will happen as you had wished.
But when it happens, you won’t be ready for it to happen and you might find yourself standing at the corner of your child’s school, watching him from afar, trying to fight the tears that are welling up in your eyes.
What they also don’t tell you about your child growing up is that when your child is six, he’s also five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when he wakes up on his sixth birthday and you expect to feel he’s six, and for him to feel he’s six, you both don’t. Because he’s six and a little bit of all the years that made him six. In fact, he’s more of the years that made him six than six.
With every candle that you add on their cake, be prepared for your heart to break a little bit more.
What they don’t tell you about your child growing up is that when he’s ten and you expect him to be a certain way and speak a certain way, on some days he might suddenly say something silly, or run after a bubble because that’s the part of him that’s still four. Or he might feel scared of the monster under his bed although he long outgrew such fears. But that’s just the part of him that’s still three.
And you know what’s the most amazing part of being a parent? You’re a parent to that six year old who’s also a little bit of five, a lot of four, a tiny bit of three, a wee bit of two and a slight semblance of one. With all your expectations of your six year old, your heart still yearns for all of those years and when you suddenly find those things missing, it’s unbearably heartbreaking.
That’s what they never told you about your child growing up. It’s also a coming of age tale for you!