Big - FamilyEducation


August 17,2009
Do you remember wanting desperately to be older? I remember, clearly. I remember being a teenager and just wishing for that next year. When I was really young I seriously believed I would grow the night before my birthday, and wake up looking different--older, taller, stronger. I had some feeling that if I could only turn 14, or 15, or 19, then that would be it, the year Great Things Would Happen. And of course great things always did happen, but I was impatient to grow up, the way young people always are. It's ironic that we always long for birthdays when we're young, and when we get older--into the years of our lives when each birthday really should be celebrated as a milestone, we try and turn back the clock. I've been very guilty of this myself; but I think as we get older we perceive the future as more uncertain, just because we're so aware of how important the things in the here and now are to us. T. is having a hard time lately being small for her age. Some day, I know, T. will be be happy to be petite, and to be mistaken for someone a good two years younger than she really is. Some day she'll embrace it and even be proud of it, but for now I think it frustrates the heck out of her. We don't always see it--at home she's still our littlest one, our chatterbox, our "baby" (although we've given up calling her that to her face, of course), but when we're out and about with other kids I can tell she feels defensive. She draws attention wherever we go because she's so precocious and talkative that people can't believe it's all coming out of someone who might be three years old. The other day, at the grocery store, the clerk bent down to T.'s level, "How old are you?" she asked T., then held up three fingers in the air. "Three?" I took T. to a neighbor's birthday party on Saturday and a bigger girl elbowed T. out of the way as all the kids vied for a good position at the picnic table. "I have to sit here," the girl told T. "You're only TWO and I'm five." Of course it's ridiculous to imagine T. as a two-year old, but the girl's comment struck a nerve--one that's been exposed in T. a few too many times. The rest of the afternoon she wanted to talk about the injustice of it all. She was TIRED of people thinking she was small, or calling her "baby", or holding up those infuriating three or four fingers--the ones that don't add up to the fingers on one hand, the years she really was. She's already looking forward to six. "Is six big?" she asks constantly, and I remember her asking the same thing about five, too. Maybe she's disappointed that she still doesn't feel big at five, or that people still think she's small--does she think she was she gypped by five? Will six be different? No matter how many stories Scott and I pull out about our own childhoods, and our own frustrations with being perceived like this or that, and about how size doesn't matter, and that it's what's inside that counts, etc. etc. I'm not sure she's ever convinced, in the same way I'm pretty sure I wasn't ever convinced, either. But it's this wisdom we parents have to hand down to our children, and a wisdom they really do need to grow into, little by little, slowly but surely, until we look at them one day and realize they really, truly, have grown big.