It’s amazing how kids can be so little and so big at the same time.
My three year old daughter still needs me so intensely, but in other ways she’s a big independent child. She takes herself to the toilet, she can get herself a snack from the cupboard (appropriate snacks are within reach) She has big girl sleep-overs at grandma’s house. She can have conversations. She can play independently for a while. She can send Peppa Pig to the television from my phone using Chrome cast….
But she still needs me to hold her (and breastfeed her) for her to fall asleep at night. She wants to be carried when she’s tired or feeling sad. She still cries – a lot. She’s still very little.
My six year old seems to teeter on the line between a little kid and a big kid. At school he’s usually laughing, bragging and showing off to his mates, making up games and being far too cool to so much as hug me goodbye, but despite his bravado during the day, most nights he asks to sleep in our bed – and most nights we let him fall asleep cuddled up in what very much is a “family bed”. Once asleep I’ll carry him back to his own bed; just for this short time that he’s still small enough for me to cradle in my arms – and hoist up onto his low bunk bed.
While this balance between being big and small is amusing and endearing, sometimes it can be confusing and even a little frustrating.
At times when I just want to be able to put them to bed, say goodnight, and leave the room. Or when my little girl wants to be carried and I don’t have the free hands or energy to lug her around on my hip all day long. Or when my big boy wants me to dress him, or help him with something he can do himself, like when he gets his bowl, spoon, cereal and milk out on the bench and then asks me to make him breakfast.
It’s not that he can’t do it himself; it’s just that he feels loved and cared for when I do it for him.
When they ask for that extra cuddle, or story, or 5 more minutes, or “Please mummy can I sleep in your bed all the night?” it can feel a little like giving in to them to say yes, but it’s giving them a solid foundation of feeling valued, loved and safe to build their life on, and to build our relationship on.
It can also be a bit hard when they’re insisting they can do something that they really can’t, and you don’t want to squash their optimism or doubt their ability – or spend even more time cooking and cleaning with a not-so-helpful helper – while also wanting to encourage their development and giving them opportunities to at least try to do these things.
It’s hard when they’re so little and they want to be big. Or when they’re big and they want to be little again, because being big is scary! I know – I’m still not entirely okay with being big yet myself.
It’s new to them – they’ve never been as big as they are today.
Nor will they ever be this little again.
So, let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle. Oh, just let them be little.
(… take it away Billy Dean….)