When Your Littles Start Growing Up



Flickr (Creative Commons), Andrew Seaman

Her birthday is around the corner. She’s been talking about it for months now. She has the theme down, reminds me to buy juice, assembles the party favors. She’d like a butterfly cake for her garden-themed party – as long as it’s purple or blue. No more pink. She’ll be turning seven, after all.

We have conversation number 578 about the party.

“Hey missy, everyone’s asking me what you want for your birthday. What would you like?”

“Hmm… you mean, like what category?” comes her response.

“Okay, yeah, sure.”

“Category: Fashion,” says my diva.

I’m a little thrown off balance. When did my baby decide she wants gifts that are from the category “Fashion”?

Yikadoodles!! This is the beginning of the end. Soon we’re going to be arguing over the length of her skirts and the color of her lipstick. She’ll become one of those moody teenagers who want nothing to do with their clueless moms. And then she’ll pack her bags and drive away to college leaving me to contemplate an empty nest and the purposelessness of life.

A mild panic attack ensues.

Scratch that.

I’m in full-blown panic attack mode.

I manage to take a deep breath before she continues, “Anyway, don’t people know that kids like surprises? And I’m a kid.”

Phew. That’s right. She’s a kid. MY kid.

But could I please, please stop this growing up thing in its tracks?

It happens in the blink of an eye. I’m caught up in the whirlwind of activity: In the school drop-offs and the ballet lessons; in the pancake making and the vitamin dispensing; in homework and “wash your hands” and mounds of peanut butter jelly samwiches.  All of a sudden days turn into years. I turn around to find that my babies are not babies anymore.

Bright wooden blocks are replaced by a gazillion teeny legos. Chewable board books are now chapter books about wimpy kids. Velcro gives way to laces they can tie on their own. I can’t bury my face in their squishy little bellies just to breathe in their baby smell. And I sure don’t want to kiss their toesies anymore, thank you very much.

I wish I could turn back time. Have another go at it. I would stop putting away the toys and would entirely nix the “Clean up” song from my repertoire. I would get off my phone and would stop pretending to play (because, boy, do they have ESP when it comes to fake playing). I would listen more and spend Saturday mornings building forts with our blankies.

Because now 8-year-old Sonny Boy is wrapped up in his chapter book and there are no more, “Can you read to me?” moments. There are no more hungry caterpillars who eat their way through junk food. There are no more mittens and kittens to whisper good night to.

Hey, I tell myself, you taught him how to read. This is how it’s supposed to work.

She washed her own hair the other night. She didn’t even use tear-free shampoo. Of all the things that could break a mom’s heart – she used grown-up shampoo.

At breakfast a week ago she managed to flip pancakes without my help. Without my help is getting to be quite the theme around here. I’m not quite sure I like the sound of that.

It’s the day before the Big Seven. My little fashionista is running a fever. We may have to cancel tomorrow’s much-awaited, garden-themed, butterfly party. She’s disappointed and so am I.

I do what I usually do when I’m kinda in the pits. I pick up the phone and call my mom. And that usually makes everything all better.

It also puts my panic attack in perspective. It slowly dawns on me: you never quite outgrow your need for your mom. Yup, needs change – as they should. My littles may not need me to read books to them or wash their hair or cut their chicken into bite-sized pieces anymore. But they’ll still need me. And when they do, it’ll make those moments that much sweeter.

She stays home from school the day before her birthday. We’ve decided to postpone the party, which means I don’t have to bake or decorate or stress about the gazillion things I would usually stress about. Instead, we make origami flowers and read books in bed. We make plans to go shoe shopping when she gets better.

Maybe I don’t need another go at the baby years. Maybe these moments are just as precious. After all, these are the moments that will someday make more memories.

(Also, you have to watch this video – Slow Down- about how quickly the years pass by. Box of tissues recommended)








  1. Pramilla Karnad says:

    Hey Susan,
    Shweta always forwards your articles to me. Enjoy every moment of your babies love . Mine has grown n left the nest long back but I miss her every moment, everyday!
    Keep your posts coming. Love reading them. God bless.

  2. Celinda Barbosa de Castro says:

    The box of tissues warning should be in the beginning… my baby is just 14 months today and I can already anticipate some of this “pain”… (of this joy!) of watching then growing up and me becoming un-necessary.. or as you beautifully noticed: diffently necessary.

    • Susan Narjala says:

      Differently necessary. I like that coinage, Celinda 🙂 It’ll be nice to have some literal apron strings to tie them to, won’t it? Enjoy your baby’s toddlerhood!

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