Here’s a statement I know most – if not all – parents know well: kids today grow up way too fast! It’s so true, and I have growing boys that seem to stretch an inch a day! Though it’s expressed often, it’s more than a cute (but real) thing to say as parents. I think about this reality with more than a little apprehension. Here’s what I go through with my oldest son, Kingsley.
“He’s How Old??”
Having growing boys means many things to a parent. Clothes fit for shorter durations, food disappears in larger quantities and more frequently, etc. My biggest concern with Kingsley is that his steady growth changes his appearance…drastically. He is heads above his friends and practically everyone in his class. Parents are almost always shocked when I explain he’s only six.
“He’s how old??”
That’s what I get from everyone. Kingsley’s growth didn’t really surprise me. I experienced something similar as a kid. When I went through puberty, I grew into my body last out of all my friends. But when I did develop, boy did I develop! I looked much older than my age, and so did my body. I even had to have a breast reduction at an early age. My son is nowhere near that, but his physical frame is definitely growing at a faster rate than his age-appropriate maturity. And that’s the biggest concern for me as his parent.
Kingsley’s rapidly-growing body might suggest to unknowing strangers that he’s much older than he actually is. Because of this, it can be easy for there to be a maturity expectation that isn’t appropriate for his corresponding age. A stranger at the club pool may, because of his size, incorrectly judge him as an eight-year-old who isn’t behaving properly. The reality is he’s just six, and he isn’t mindful of when his lanky arms reach too far and knock a glass over.
As his mother, I know that Kingsley’s heart and soul don’t fit his body. They’re so much softer and younger than the portrait nature is painting of his in this part of his life. It’s made me more of a helicopter parent because I want to make sure he isn’t misunderstood or misjudged when he’s simply not great with spacial awareness. I find myself constantly apologizing for him. At the same time, I tend to be hard on and assertive with him in public. I feel as if I had to be, and I know other parents of growing boys understand that. I love the innocence I see in him when I ask if he’s the tallest in his class and he responds, “no, the teacher is.” Yet, I know not everyone will share or appreciate those moments. I totally get it, but it’s not fair to him at all.
The World from This Point
Raising growing boys is never easy. I fear things may only get more difficult from here. Accidental clumsiness won’t always be forgiven with “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t know.” As with many situations recently in our society, I am keenly aware that the world may see him as something he’s not. I want to hold on to his childhood and protect him with the fierceness of a mama bear for the rest of his day. Yet, I realize my biggest help to him will be to instill in him the understanding that he is beautiful just the way he is.
I will continue to teach him respect and self-awareness. He will always know that I love him no matter what his body looks like, or whatever choices he makes. Kingsley will forever remember that, though he’s my “jolly green giant,” he is one of the most amazing human beings in my life. I’ll make sure that empowered spirit continues to grow along with him.