Kiran Manral co-author of 13 Steps To Bloody Good Parenting writes about 20 things parents with little kids must do to cherish the growing up years.
A couple of days ago, the offspring got togged up in his favourite suit. He refused to wear a tie with it. “No one wears a tie, Mom,” he scoffed as I brandished the offending item in front of him, “its dorky.” I deferred to his grip on the fashion coolth quotient of his generation because I am more than a few generations removed from them. His father straightened his collar, he posed for a photograph. Dissatisfied with the photographs his father clicked, he went to the mirror and clicked himself, in that particular slanted phone style I see all over Instagram. He then went off, shiny shoes, twinkling eyes and broad shoulders, a stranger in place of my little kiddo.
Excuse me while I go honk my nose a bit, the boy is now a manling. He’s fifteen. This was him getting togged up for his tenth standard farewell party. Stop a moment. Wasn’t he just zygote in utero a few days ago? When did he grow so tall that I barely reach the tip of his ears in my bare feet? Didn’t he fall asleep in my lap just the other day? Who is this hulking creature who can lift me off my feet without even making an effort? Where did my baby go?
When did he grow so tall that I barely reach the tip of his ears in my bare feet?
Somewhere in the rush of feeding, burping, cleaning, making tiffin boxes, taking up lessons, dropping him to school, picking him up, ironing uniforms, putting on a cold compress to feverish brows, the boy grew up. I feel a little short changed to be honest. Why did no one warn me that little boys don’t stay little boys and that when they do grow you will miss the babies they were so fiercely, that it seems like a physical ache. That every time you see them now, the voice cracking, the body hulking, the skin acne inflicted, you’re reminded of all the cuteness they were and that you missed out on because you were too busy getting a roster list of things to do ticked off in your day. They morphed into each other, those days, they became months, then years. The silver settled in your hair, the lines etched themselves on your face, their trousers grew short, the shirt sleeves went to the forearm from the cuffs, their haircuts morphed from an exercise in holding them still in the chairs to an exercise in plea bargaining to get a decent length off so that a face was visible beneath the mop. When did he morph into a young man constantly in a rush, from the kid who constantly wanted a hug, and what had kept me from hugging him as often as he’d wanted? The laundry, an unanswered email, something on the fire threatening to become a burnt offering to the gods? What all had I let go when I let my boy grow up without me relishing his growing years?
Why did no one warn me that little boys don’t stay little boys and that when they do grow you will miss the babies they were so fiercely, that it seems like a physical ache.
There’s so much that I wish I could reclaim and revisit and do differently now that he’s grown, and the most of all, is that I wish I had slowed down and enjoyed his growing up, without constantly being in fourth gear to get things done. Things would have waited, his growing up didn’t.
Here then are 20 things you must do if your kids are still little, so you have these imprinted in your mind and heart when they grow too big, too soon.
- Breathe them in. Seriously. The smell of a freshly bathed and powdered baby can be quite intoxicating.
- See how truly beautiful they are, and take pride in the fact that you made them. There’s perfection in your creation and appreciate that.
- Let things be. The laundry can wait a while, but a child intent on telling you the story of what happened when the dog barked at the other dog in the park will go away if you don’t pay attention and you miss out on listening to the best moment of their day.
- Hug them, often. And tight. With all your heart.
- Listen to their hearts beating firmly in their chests.
- Carry their photographs in your wallet. Pull them out. Show them off to friends and people you meet.
- Make a box of keepsakes. A onesie, a bib, a pair of mittens, those first squeaky shoes. Be prepared to have your uterus contract with the rush of memories when you open that box up when they’re grown.
Keep the phones off during meal time. Have as many meals together as a family.
- Have a snuggle in bedtime routine. Curl in with them, tell them about your day, tell them a story, talk about anything, but keep talking to them, and listen to them without interrupting when they talk to you.
- Kiss them awake. Kiss them asleep. Kiss them when you want to. Soon they will be too grown up to allow you to do so.
- Look into their eyes when you speak to them, use their names. Have a special nickname for each. In this era of online interactions, teach them what it means to communicate face to face and with connection.
Think of what you wish your parents had done more of with you when you were a child, and do that with your children.
- Don’t be in a hurry for them to grow up—let them be children, they’re not meant to be miniature adults.
- Play with them. Silly play. Make believe stuff. Get muddy, get dirty, climb trees, run in the park. Soon enough they’ll only want to go out in public with their friends.
- Crack jokes. Be funny. Tickle a lot. Laugh a lot. The best memory you could give your child is a childhood full of laughter in the home.
- Take time out from being a parent. An hour a day. A day in a month. A weekend once a year. All to yourself, for you to recharge, reconnect with yourself. Don’t feel selfish about doing this. Self care is the first care you need to prioritise before you can care for your children.
- Have a growth wall, with marks on them charting how they’ve grown over the years. Write the date against each mark. Don’t paint over it.
- Watch movies together. Movies that both of you can enjoy—not just kiddy movies.
Let them stay up late sometimes. Rules can be broken occasionally.
- Click them, record them, maintain a private journal of memories. Memories slip away like quicksilver. Years later you won’t be able to remember the exact lilt of their voice as they squealed in joy at an unexpected treat, but a quick phone recording is forever.
(Kiran Manral is an author and the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. Her most recent book, co-authored with Ashwin Sanghi is 13 Steps To Bloody Good Parenting published by Westland).
The views expressed are the author’s own.
Picture Credit: mediaresources.idiva