Am I Growing My Child Up Too Fast?
Am I growing my child up too fast? This question has been haunting me recently as I navigate the parenting world of 8 year olds. In an instant, Olivia can go from copping the “I can say and do what I want” attitude to happily playing in an imaginary world of pretend. As she herself straddles this fine line, I often find myself struggling with making parenting decisions that both allow her to be independent but also take into account her need to still be a child. The realization hit home during the holiday break.
It started on Christmas morning while opening presents. Although we got Olivia some “traditional” toys, this year we branched out to more “older” items such as trendy boots, clothes, and the big surprise – an iPod nano. As her 3 year old brother tore open toy after toy, I watched as Olivia became increasingly despondent. Apparently, we hadn’t quite hit the right balance with gifts. “How come Owen gets all the good toys?” she asked. I glanced over at his firefighter dress-up kit and pretend cash register and wondered, “How did we get this wrong?” As vacation week went on, Olivia found entertainment in all Owen’s toys. Don’t get me wrong, she was happy to jam out to her iPod and watch her new Harry Potter movie over and over. But there was still this thing about the toys.
So I started to take notice of all the other ways she shows me that she still wants, and needs, to live in a child’s world. Here is what I discovered about 8 year olds and the growing up process:
• Pretend play is incredibly important. Honestly, I would have thrown out all the dress-up items if it weren’t for Owen. I forgot how much I loved to play school and dolls when I was Olivia’s age. After a full day playing pretend with a friend and countless days doing the same with her brother, I know that Olivia is not quite done with the pretend play phase yet.
• Playgrounds are fun. Despite the cold weather on New Year’s day, we went to our favorite playground to swing away the indoor blues. As Olivia and I swung side by side, higher and higher, it was clear that playgrounds will be in our lives for a long time.
• Nature is still something to be explored. About a month ago, I dragged the kids into the woods around our house in the cold rain. As we sloshed through the leaves and mud, we discovered mushrooms, moss, and all kinds of interesting stuff. At the time, it was a much needed retreat from a morning of unrelenting sibling bickering. What I didn’t realize was how memorable that hour would be for Olivia. She still talks about it and even tells her friends about the time mommy took her into the woods when it was raining.
• You’re never too old for a good children’s museum. When my husband suggested we go to a local children’s museum, my first thought was that it may be a stretch for Olivia. I was totally wrong. She was one of the oldest kids there but it didn’t matter. She found lots of fun exhibits and even loved helping Owen discover all the cool things to do.
• Kids will lead the way. Most importantly, I’ve learned that it’s important for kids to lead their growing up process with parents there to gently guide where necessary.
Am I growing my child up too fast? I’m trying hard to find the right parenting balance when it comes to the growing up process. I’m still learning – thanks to my daughter. And, next year, you can bet that I’m going to ask for a Christmas gift list instead of winging it!