Young mother, son and daughter playing outside on the lawn in sunny weather having fun laughing with joy.
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When You Wished for Your Child to “Just Stay Little”

I hated you when you wished for your child to “just stay little,” but now I understand.

You’ve said it often, in many different ways. “Why can’t they just stay little?” You would lament as you saw your baby changing into a toddler…a preschooler…a kindergartener.

I swore I’d never use that phrase, because I know that if given the choice, you would not choose a child who didn’t grow up. I know because I have one.

I saw my first son grow slowly and develop even more slowly. Then pause, stop, and repeat, while never making more than subtle and calculated progress towards his milestones. And while we celebrate every single tiny accomplishment he makes, it sucks to see his peers growing up as he should have knowing that he’s never going to be like them, due to his developmental disabilities.

When my daughter arrived, I cheerfully applauded as she hit those milestones. I celebrated her tenacity and spunk as she reached each new age and stage. I even proclaimed out loud how amazing it was to see her grow and develop and become the adult she would be one day.

And then her younger brother arrived, and I stuck to my oath again. This time I was more cognizant that this was very likely the last time I’d see a baby grow in my arms. I swore to myself again, and added that this time I would take it all in. Breathe in every moment as my last baby grew, and changed, and developed.

And I did, at first. I celebrated as he grew, but noted it all. I took more pictures, and tried hard to document on paper and in my mind all the things I loved about my baby, and then about my toddler, and now about my preschooler. So. Many. Things.

But now his sister is older, approaching tween status. She’s still spunky, but sassier now, with most of that sass directed at me. She doesn’t need me as much. She is strong willed, dramatic and oh-so-stubborn. All traits I remind myself will serve her well someday, but that currently try my patience in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

Now instead of seeing the adult she will eventually become, I see the teenager I’ll meet first, and I’m a tiny bit terrified of what’s to come.

Meanwhile my baby boy will start Kindergarten this fall. He still looks at me with nothing but love in his eyes. He still wants hugs, kisses and snuggles and asks for them regularly. At bedtime, he offers me a “really better hug” before he lays down with his monkey and curls into a little ball to go to sleep. I want to pause, stop and repeat. I don’t want this to change.

So I apologize to you for judging. I get it now. I understand what you want to hold on to. It’s not the diapers, or the temper tantrums, or the lack of communication, or the constant attention that I still have to give to my oldest son, who is now eleven years old but developmentally still at the level of a young preschooler. It’s the moments you know will never happen again as they are happening now. The moments that you will miss as your child grows into their own. It’s not that you didn’t want to see them growing up, or didn’t appreciate the changes that happened along the way, it’s that you know that someday soon the offers of a “really better hug” and unlimited snuggles will go away. And while you will have those memories that you’ve documented into the fibers of your being, you just hope for one more day to observe and take note.

This post originally appeared on Be Like a Mother. It has been reprinted with permission.

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