Why We Stopped Saying 'When You're A Big Kid...' To My Son

by Ashley Glass
Originally Published: 
Ashley Glass

Do you remember being small and wishing you weren’t? (OK, I’m tiny and desperately wish to be even 5-foot-3, but in this case I mean small as in young.)

In fifth grade, I fell in love and wished I was old enough to date (what?!). In middle school, I wished for my high school years. Enter freshman year, where I found myself wishing to be a senior. I wished for a cell phone, for my driver’s license, to be allowed to screw up royally (which trust me, I did). And then what happened? I just kept wishing.

Senior year, I yearned for college. I wanted freedom and to land it big (which I didn’t) in the horse racing industry. So I moved to Kentucky as soon as I graduated high school. I enrolled in classes, decorated my dorm, and got a job at Churchill Downs. Did my wishing stop?

You bet it didn’t. I met a boy, quickly wanted to marry his dapper self, and three years later, wished for a baby. Well, God gave me a son, and this son is the one who has made me want to hit the giant red “EMERGENCY STOP” button on my life. Is that a thing? It needs to be!

At not yet 4, my son almost constantly uses the phrase, “When I get big and strong…” It is after all, what the standard motivational mantra has been:

You need to dinner because it will help you be big and strong.

You should play outdoors. Run, jump, have fun! It’ll help you get big and strong. Get good sleep. Drink more water. Someday you’ll be big and strong!

Bam! Enter a child who dreams about a time when he is no longer small. Is that mantra entirely to blame? No, his dad is 6-foot-4 and a strong dude. Of course our son wants to be just like him. He sees his daddy mowing the lawn (and has been trying to help since he’s been able to walk) and building a giant playhouse with his bare hands (and a lot of nails). He loves to help me bake, but isn’t “big enough” yet to crack the eggs into the batter. His mind constantly thinks and creates, but doesn’t feel “big enough” to put all of that into a physical product. Recently he looked up at my husband and said, “Daddy, I can’t wait to be as tall as you!” My sweet man bent down, held his face, and said, “Buddy, it’s OK to be little right now. It’s OK to be small,” to which our son obviously disagreed.

We’ve all done this. We still do this. Here I am, approaching 30, and I wish I didn’t look it. I wish not to have the dark circles, the mom skin, the mid-length hair refusing to grow, the bushy eyebrows, the (insert whatever you want to change here). My entire life I wished to be older and look at me now: I fear aging, I wish I could go back in time, and I wish my 20s weren’t almost over.

If time could be frozen, I would consider doing it. Momentarily. To just bottle up and keep on a shelf, all the magic of these fleeting childhood years. But I suppose that in itself is another wish, isn’t it? And perhaps we should just stop wishing for a while and focus on being present.

My son, you are already so big and so strong. You are so perfect, just the way you are. Life, it is so good right now. You’re leaving toddlerhood and will soon be embarking into boyhood. You ARE big and strong, so please just be YOU. The baby that I wished for, the boy that I will eternally adore.

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