The Truest Thing I Know About Parenthood

16 January 2015

Children really do grow up too fast

They really do grow too fast.

I’m going to wager that my kids are probably older than yours. I am basing that loosely on the fact that the average Playpennies reader has kids of primary school age or younger, and I’ve just spent this week taking my firstborn to visit the different high schools that he has the option of applying to go to, come this time next year.

My son turns ten this month, but I’ve somehow managed to kid myself for a while that high school isn’t zooming into view on the horizon as quickly as it is.

Maybe it’s denial, but I simply wasn’t ready to accept that my first baby wasn’t a baby anymore. The signs have been there for a while; the request for a bottle of ‘Lynx’ shower gel instead of the Johnson’s baby bath products which we’ve used since forever, the physical changes which mean that he can’t curl up in my arms anymore but tends to make me topple off my chair whenever he tries to sit on my lap, and the incessant pestering for a mobile phone and / or a laptop of his own. (Yeah, dream on kid.)

But somehow, finding myself sitting in a high school presentation by the Principal on why my son should choose THIS school, woke me up to the reality that I’ve never really believed until now; kids really do grow up too fast. One moment you’re capturing first words and trying new tastes, and the next you’re navigating having 'The Talk' and and trying to work out whether 10 is too young to watch The Hunger Games movies.

When people warned me, back when my kids were babies, that the days would fly by and so I should cherish every moment because they grow up too fast? Well, I dismissed them as lunatics who had either forgotten what parenthood was like altogether, or had just taken to repeating the same old platitudes that make people utter such inanities as ‘Do you know what you’re having’ to pregnant women or compels them to remark ‘You’ve got your hands full’ to any mother in the company of more than one child.

But it turns out I was wrong. They’re not lunatics. They’re bang on the money. Children really do grow up too fast, but the real, crushing secret which no-one actually explains is that you don’t realise that until it has already begun to happen. You don't really notice that they're growing up - and fast - until the moments that you'd give a kidney to have back are already far, far beyond your reach.

As C.S Lewis said:

"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?"

No-one ever really looks at a three year old and mourns their babyhood; not truly. But watch your pre-teen roll his eyes at you when you remind him to put his coat on before he leaves the house, or listen to him talk about how he sees the world or what he's going to be when he leaves home, and you’ll instantly know what it’s like to pine for the days, difficult and interminable though they sometimes seemed at the time, when they could sleep in your arms for hours and you always knew exactly where they were 24/7.

I know what 'they' meant now, all those people who warned me back when my babies were actually babies that 'the days are long but the years are short'. They really do grow up too fast. Listening to my kid talk about his plans to study architecture in far flung corners of the world today made me want to cry because I miss the tiny boy whose ambition was 'to be a helicopter man and rescue people from disasters', but also laugh until my head fell off with joy - because isn't a totally bonkers privilege to watch them grow?

I just wish I'd realised sooner that I should have cherished those primary school years while they lasted, because it's true. They truly do pass in the blink of an eye.

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