Parenthood is littered with pointless unhelpful platitudes. It’s like someone handed out a hand-book of “things to say when you have nothing to say”, and everyone read and memorized it. I’m getting real sick of conversations where I can predict the reaction of the person I’m talking to, down to the word. It’s hard not to roll my eyes; instead I kindly smile and oooh and aaah at their insights. So what I tend to do now is not share what I feel and experience with friends and family out there, I just write it in here instead. Lucky you.
One particular saying is so common, and so wrong, that it’s getting an entire post to itself. “They grow up so fast, don’t they!”. This is commonly accompanied by “uh oh, your child looks like it’s about to learn to crawl / walk, what a nuisance that is… they just grow up too fast..!” These people know I have a developmentally delayed child, and I still hear it all the time. Let me tell you something, children grow up at the exact right speed nature intended. Because you sure as heck notice it when their growth is delayed; it is worrisome, and painful and distressing. It is hard to carry a 20kg child who should be walking and climbing by themself. It is almost impossible to contain a tantrum of the type that should have stopped happening when they were a baby, and have since grown into a child’s body. Changing a four-year old’s nappies isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Growing up – developing at the right speed – would be just awesome from where I’m sitting.
And no it’s not a time to dismay when they learn to crawl and walk, it is a reason to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. I accept that I have to protect my house from my one year-old baby and protect my baby from my house as he’s learnt these skills, and not once did I think “gosh he grew up so fast, I wish I could turn back the clock.” Sure he was a cute infant, but do I have wistful thoughts of the sleepless nights that I used to hate because he was feeding every two hours..? No. He grew up when he should, as he should, and that’s firmly in the “yay” category for me. As it should be for everyone.
A friend recently said I would one day miss having my children at home so I should cherish every day I have with them now, even when it sucks monkey-butt. Really? She can promise me that my autistic son will one day leave home? Because if she can, she got a memo my son’s health professionals didn’t get. I will not regret the day he leaves home, if he ever leaves home, I will instead cherish it as the next step in his development as a human being.
One of our primary jobs as parents is to give our children independence. I work hard to give that gift to both my children. So I refuse to mourn when they advance to the next stages of their lives. They’re on the road towards the day when they no longer need me to hold their hand (or change their nappy, or feed them). I love my kids, it’s not like I wish they were gone, and it’s not even that I wish they’d both grow up faster. I just happen to understand and intimately appreciate, that children do not “grow up too fast”.