When Our Babies Grow Up

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Recently, when putting my two oldest daughters to bed, the younger one suddenly, out of the blue, sobbed that, “My legs hit the edge of this bed and it hurts, Mama. Why won’t you get me a big bed?!” My first instinct was to correct the complaining and remind her that we ask for things, not demand what we want. But it was literally the first time it had even crossed my mind that her toddler bed was indeed quite small and her little feet were indeed awfully near the end.

Now this produced an almost immediate feeling of guilt, that I had deprived her of a bed that fit her for who knows how long. Secretly, I also was lamenting that this meant the adorable, antique Jenny Lind toddler bed that I had painstakingly chalk painted (it’s hard to paint those spindles, people!) to a level of perfection that would make Joanna Gaines envious would have to go into storage. But most of all, how could my second baby not be a baby any longer?! Time flies, so they say, but it was flying too fast.

All three of my babies in the toddler bed!

The Transition

This weekend we moved the aforementioned magazine-worthy toddler bed to the attic. My almost-four year old is elated with her big girl bed, and she wiggled her toes and rejoiced at all that space. She’s added new must-be-ever-present stuffed animals and pillows to her nightly routine, because of course that extra space ought not to remain empty. And even though I’m sentimental over both the cute bed and especially the cute little girl who doesn’t fit in it any more, I know that to grow up is good and necessary.

A Turning Point

For some reason, this incident has really stuck with me. It feels like a turning point, a moment to decide how to handle all of these big transitions. Will I miss the little years, feel them slip from my fingers? Will I cry over a load of baby clothes dropped off at the consignment sale? Dread the first day of kindergarten (or high school, or college)?

The best insight I’ve heard on this subject came from a source I did not expect. In a casual work conversation that somehow ended up on the topic of middle school dances (of all things, I know), my male colleague, whose kids are older than mine, was asked how he felt about his daughter beginning to attend these dances, date, etc. While he certainly didn’t express enthusiasm at dealing with hormonal teenage boys who want to date his daughter, he did explain something I found quite wise: he said he wants to enjoy his kids where they are right now. Today. It’s simple but profound, really. If I celebrate the milestone of the big girl bed, it detracts from the sadness of the attic-relegated toddler one. And importantly, this sends a message to my child that growing up and changing and developing is good, it is expected, and it should be celebrated. 

Baby, Grow up!

Mamas, let’s rejoice that our babies are growing up. It’s certainly better than the alternative. This mindset will teach our kids to press on, to keep improving and growing and becoming the men and women they were created to be. So next time you drop off a bag of clothes or that old car seat at your neighborhood consignment sale, rejoice. There’s less junk in your garage and you’ve kept that kid alive long enough that they need bigger clothes. If that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

 

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Mallory grew up in Oklahoma, met her husband Dave in college there, and they have lived in Maryland, Michigan, and now Alabama since getting married in 2008. She graduated from Michigan State University with a PhD in exercise physiology in 2014, and her family then moved to Birmingham so she could start a job as a college professor. She is mom to five great kids ages nine and under, and considers it a tremendous joy to get to invest in the lives of both her kids and her students. In her free time, Mallory enjoys family walks around the neighborhood, reading to her kids, bargain hunting, home improvement projects, and being involved in the children’s and missions ministries at her church.