Growing Pains

From the day you learn you're pregnant, everything is about that baby's growth. Every doctor appointment revolves around your growth and the baby's. Once the baby is born, we are still preoccupied with growth. Both physical, and now mental and emotional. The baby is weighed and measured monthly or more to ensure they are on the right curve. If something changes in the percentiles, red flags start waving and parents get scared. If baby isn't meeting physical milestones, like rolling and sitting, red flags drop again. We have a constant worry about whether this child will grow and develop as society prescribes. Eventually, the physical growth questions wane and the academic ones begin. Can she add? Can he read? Then, the athletic inquiries appear. How fast can he swim? Is she starting gymnastics? We become entrenched in the growth and development of our children and forget about our own needs. Others are so interested in whether Johnny can play basketball they forget that Johnny's mom might need groceries. We also forget to take care of our children's psychological needs, which are more important than their academic or athletic needs. We don't know if Suzy is being bullied on the bus because she got a "C" on that science test and we need to address that issue first. As our children grow, their needs for care and oversight evolve. No longer do they need us to dress them and brush their teeth. We don't have to oversee every bite of food anymore or help them shower. Their emotional state is more fragile than it was before. While we had to cut grapes into quarters, a hug and kiss was all they needed when James took Billie's toy. Now, James isn't taking toys. He is making fun of Billie's acne instead. And Billie prefers to be called Bill and he finds Jane attractive, but Jane is oblivious. Their needs, and ours, change with their growth. We must grow with them as parents and continue to meet their needs, evolved as they may be. Teaching respect for others just got a lot harder because there are many more nuances than existed before. A hug and kiss won't do anymore because that's icky. And also because they need to understand why their friends aren't their friends anymore. Or why their friends are suicidal. Parenting toddlers and teens might seem quite similar, but the emotional needs of each are very different. Both need support as they figure out who they are in this world. That support for Rory at 12 is very different from the support for Kae at three. Rory needs me to listen and help her work through her own struggles for herself. Kae needs me to model simple problem solving and compromise. Balancing these two acts and my own growth needs is challenging. In the middle, I still have Will and Mack, who have their own sets of needs. But my needs cannot be ignored. I have to find balance. Leigh helps me have time for me, but not everyone is so lucky. Moms and Dads of special needs kids especially need reverie. Our kids' needs will always come first and will change from week to week. Our own needs for down time and refreshing will also change. Growth is hard. Painful even. If we can relax into and welcome it, rather than resist the inevitable, we will be better of.

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