By Beck

I was looking at pictures from a few years ago – and is this ever a good idea? I suspect not – and was just stricken by how small and child-sized my Boy was just minutes ago. Now, of course, he is as tall as kids in grades above him, tall and sturdy and deep-voiced.

“You’re a big boy for grade 3!” the dentist told him the other day, and The Boy was able to tell him, BURSTING with pride, that he is actually only in grade 1.

There is a big downside to this, besides subtly breaking my stupid, stupid heart – people expect the poor kid to act like someone years older than himself. And short of having him wear a t-shirt that says “I am really much younger than you think I am”, we’re not sure of what to do.

“He’ll just have to act the way people expect him to,” my husband said. “It’s not fair, but if everyone expects him to be mature and he’s not, he’ll have a really hard time.”

So we sat him down one rainy afternoon and talked to him. You’re gonna have to act like a big boy, we told him. And then the rest of the day the poor kid walked around with thunderstorms crackling under his face.

You know that I am only a little boy,” he finally burst out. “Everyone else won’t know it but YOU should, mom.”

“Goodbye, my mommy!” yelled The Boy this morning, kissing me on the face and accidentally hitting me with a lunchbag as he leapt off the front steps on his way to school, laughing in the dappled summer sunlight. And right in the middle of this sunny, happy morning, there was this secret bittersweet core,  this knowledge that I will have to pretend to be content with the changes that time will bring while inside I feel small and sad. I don’t know what it is I want – to freeze, maybe,  that beautiful, clumsy leap off the steps by my Boy, tall and radiant and vulnerable and just a little boy, still.

21 Responses to Leap
  1. Heather
    June 25, 2009 | 10:48 am

    Our oldest struggles with the same thing–she is 11 and nearly my size, and has always been in the 90th percentile for her age. It is hard because she really is a child at heart, and she has finally determined that it really doesn’t matter what other people think, she is going to continue being who she is regardless. And in the end it really does work out.

  2. patois
    June 25, 2009 | 10:59 am

    I love this, not because the boy has to be an older someone than he is, but because your feeling “sad and small” is something I can so relate to.

  3. Omaha Mama
    June 25, 2009 | 11:16 am

    I keep having to remind myself that my B is just FIVE (turning six in July) and only just finished kindergarten. She’s so tall and clever, I really do expect too much from her. That tshirt you suggested, there might really be something to that!

  4. Rachel in CA
    June 25, 2009 | 11:20 am

    My boy has always been ginormous for his age, from infancy. Even I would have to remind myself that he wasn’t as old as he looked. (“WHY are you acting like a THREE YEAR OLD? Oh. You ARE a three-year-old.”) I live in a small town, like you, and most people know us, and many people strike up conversations when we encounter each other around town, the first line of which is generally “how old are you now?” directed at my kids, so misconceptions would get cleared up with those people. As for the others, who might have seen my six-year-old acting like a six-year-old instead of the nine- or ten-year-old they thought he was — oh well. I figured childhood was too short for me to fret about what they thought.

    Now he’s thirteen and nearly six feet tall with shoulders wider than mine (and that’s saying something). He looks like a boy who should be driving his own car with his arm around a girl, but he only just this summer stopped calling me “Mommy” in favor of “Mom.” He’s quite a conversation piece in the grocery store/library/post office these days. 🙂

  5. shawna
    June 25, 2009 | 11:51 am

    Ack. It’s still too early in the morning for me to be reading this and to get all sad, Beck. Heck, it’s always a bad time for me to realize that my boys are growing up way too fast.

    You put it beautifully. Now I will wipe my tears and wish once again that my SIXTEEN year old will miss me while he’s away at camp.

  6. heidiannie
    June 25, 2009 | 12:12 pm

    OK- now you made me cry. I am too mature to cry over little boys getting older or looking older or Mommies that need to remember when they are still little boys no matter how old they look.
    My little boy is 23,my big boy is 31 and a father, himself. And I sit here crying, because someplace deep inside my heart they are frozen, those moments of happy childhood, and there they are still my little boys.

  7. Elisa
    June 25, 2009 | 1:24 pm

    I have exactly the same problem with my dear daughter, who, at age six is the size and shape of the average nine year old. It’s often hard even for me to remember just how young her heart really is…

  8. Anitra
    June 25, 2009 | 1:27 pm

    I was that kid. And I had to grow up far too fast, because I had few kids near my age to play with, too. My parents expected me to “behave” when I was the only child in a group of adults (which happened often). It wasn’t a bad childhood, but I do want better for my baby girl… and it looks like my genes for size might have carried on to her. So we’ll just have to be intentional about letting her act her age as she grows.

  9. becky
    June 25, 2009 | 1:29 pm

    Wow, you really do need a puppy.

    But even they grow up… and much quicker no less.

  10. mimi
    June 25, 2009 | 1:38 pm

    Are we all going through this this week? Munchkin has THE SAME problem (woman on Mennonite horse-carriage tour: “She’s just a week older than my son!” [pause] “Wow.” [pause] “She’s really big for three.”)

    Sigh. Dunno what to do, either.

  11. Carrie
    June 25, 2009 | 4:53 pm

    I don’t have this problem yet- my toddler is supposed to act like a toddler still, and he’s normal to small for his age. 🙂

    But I guess I don’t understand why your son has to act older than his age – just to meet other people’s expectations – other people who don’t know him well enough to know even how old he truly is??? I’m not trying to be rude, just trying to understand your viewpoint. I know you’re a great mom & you’re doing everything you can to help your son.

  12. Beck
    June 25, 2009 | 4:57 pm

    I think that we were worried that he would get into trouble if he was goofing around and people thought that he was a big kid acting dumb and not a little kid acting like a little kid. But when he said that to us, we realized that we were wrong to make that his responsibility – I’d hoped that I had made that clearer in my post, but I guess I didn’t.

  13. Heather of the EO
    June 25, 2009 | 8:33 pm

    YOU DID, Beck. You did make it clear. I got it. Just um…so you know…I got it.

  14. Carrie
    June 25, 2009 | 9:30 pm

    Sorry I didn’t understand at first – I didn’t mean to make you feel bad – I guess I was more kind of encouraging you that he doesn’t HAVE to grow up so quickly b/c it doesn’t matter what other people think – but I see what you mean about people thinking he’s older & just acting up, and how people might get annoyed at that. Hope you didn’t take offense to my comment! 🙁

  15. Nicole
    June 25, 2009 | 10:08 pm

    One of my friends has very big kids – she and her husband are both over six feet – and it was and is difficult for them. When their son was about nine months people wondered why that two year old wasn’t walking, and when their daughter was one they wondered why that three year old wouldn’t use her words (because she didn’t have any…)

    It’s difficult, that’s for sure.

  16. Hannah
    June 25, 2009 | 11:00 pm

    So you DID blog about The Boy, Beck. That should allay some certain concerns regarding your affection for him in comparison to your girls, eh?

  17. Karen
    June 26, 2009 | 9:14 am

    oh, I see this ahead for Theo. At three, he is the baby of our family, but he is bigger than most 4 year olds. Verbally, he is okay, can old his own with much chattier kids, but emotionally is he all the torrent that age 3 is & that makes me people glare at times at this huge child who is not so good at sharing and cries profusely at small injuries and insults. We try to work his age into the conversation subtly by saying things like, “I know, sweetie, I know it is so hard to share but you have to learn to just like all the other 3 (THREE! THREE!) year olds at the library, okay?”

  18. Mozi Esmes Mommy
    June 29, 2009 | 9:02 pm

    They get so big – and we keep encouraging them to grow – but sometimes I just wrap my arms around my little girl and tell her she’s still my little girl, no matter how big she gets…

  19. Ann in NJ
    July 14, 2009 | 4:28 pm

    Sigh. It doesn’t get any easier. My now 14-yr old is over 6 ft. tall and 250+ pounds. And yet, he is still only 14, looking like an almost full-grown man (still a bit of a baby face, but probably not for long!). We realized the “expect more of him” problem long ago, for the same reasons you have. It is bittersweet, and you just have to keep helping him, reminding people, and mindfully remembering yourself that he is ONLY his true age. No one ever tells you the REAL issues that you have to deal with as a parent!

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