“I want to be a grown-up Mummy!”
Why do children want to grow up so fast?
Four year old M was reluctantly getting his pyjamas on last night, having wangled a good 15 minutes extra time downstairs playing sports car Top Trumps with Daddy, and then dragging out the whole tidying up process (he just happens to do it reeeeaally slowly before bed). And amongst the generic grumbling, he comes out with:
“I don’t want to go to bed. I want to stay up all night like grown-ups.”
Oh right, this could be interesting.
Me: “What do you think grown ups do when you’re in bed, then?”
“Play games and do whatever they want.”
Me: “Really? Well, what we actually do it cook, wash up, tidy up, do jobs, maybe watch a bit of telly, then go to bed. It’s not all that fun, M.”
“I still want to be a grown up.”
Me: “You will be one day. But grown-ups have to pay bills, work, and do lots of house jobs, we don’t play really.” Sad times. Bring back playing. “Why do you really want to be a grown up?”
“So I can stay up all night, And be a racing driver.”
Ha, that’s more like it – ambition!
I do feel a gutwrench whenever he says he wants to be older. It’s got me wondering why exactly kids want to grow up fast, and why we don’t want them to.
Being a child seems amazing to us knackered parents – you play all the time, you don’t have to pay for anything, you sleep for as long as you like, you have a personal shopper, dresser and butler… Why on earth would you want responsibilities?
Well, I guess he doesn’t know what those responsibilities are. Or how it feels to have them; a mortgage, two children to keep alive, a career… Think about it from his point of view. He’s innocently excited about all the things he’ll be able to do one day. The world of opportunities that awaits! Be banished height restrictions at theme parks! Hello older Lego sets! Choose when he wants to go to bed! (That one makes me laugh – as if I’d ‘choose’ to go to bed at 9pm, nope – that one is the baby’s fault and a pure survival tactic.)
He must feel so frustrated at my “No, not now”s, or “When you’re a bit bigger, maybe”s. At 4, he suddenly aware that his wings are clipped and he can’t spread them yet – in a more mature way than a two year old’s stampy paddy about not going to the park. When we use a babysitter (which isn’t often), he now asks us in a little sad voice where we’re going and why – not because he’s being left I think, but because we’ve chosen to do something away from the house with our non-parenting hats on. When I went back to work after maternity leave a month ago, it hit him harder than I imagined – we had spent a whole year together. The realisation that Mummy and Daddy have a life away from he and his little sister has made him crave independance himself.
I don’t baby him – nor do I want to. I don’t think I’m sad about him actually growing up. I just don’t want him to wish away his carefree, happy childhood.
Even if it would mean a fast track to Formula One success.