“I want to be a grown up like you,” she said in the dark.
“No you don’t. You want to be a kid forever and ever,” I told her quietly.
“How many years are you, mommy?”
“Wow, I definitely want to be that number,” she whispered softly and yawning, almost as if it were this dreamy number where the girl turns into a princess and gets whisked away by the prince. She rubbed her eyes, and I wished her sweet dreams.
And so it has begun, I thought.
It saddens me now, my eagerness to be so grown. I understand now what was so important about my childhood. And I am saddened by this whole process of growing older, not because I don’t want to look older, but because I can’t be younger. Sure, I can still act young and do young things, but I still have to act older. I have responsibilities. Duties. Bills. We spend 15-20 years of our lives trying to be adults. And then we spend at least 40 trying to relive our childhood in any way we can (that is if we had a good one I suppose).
I have been somewhat taken aback recently as I look at myself in the mirror. My face, while fairly wrinkleless, still shows signs of age. I look different from how I picture myself in my head. The other day Baby Love and I found ourselves in the midst of a bunch of high school kids coming to our local college to visit representatives from other colleges. As we both watched them pass, laughing and talking amongst themselves, I found myself desiring to walk amongst them, for in my head, I am still one of them and I on some levels view them on the same playing field of life as me, or vice versa maybe. Yet, they look at me so differently. As they walked, and watched Baby Love play on the bricks, they looked at me like an adult, a mother, perhaps a wife, but most importantly older and not in the same stage of life as them. And honestly, I was not happy with their looking, with what I saw on their faces. It wasn’t mean or hostile. It wasn’t mockery or rudeness. It was simply how I looked at someone my age when I was in high school. And I was sad. And I am sad.
I know my children will do exactly as all children do and have done for centuries. They will play mommy and doctor and teacher. They will desire to do all the things the older children do. They, too, will not be able to see with their eyes open until they are older and it is too late to go back. They will want to grow up.
The thing about childhood is it is the period when we spend our time the best, not squandering it at a computer or in front of a tv, at work or paying bills. It’s the time when we’re freest, the time when we’re best able to explore and learn. It’s a few short years of really enjoying life in its simplest and purest state. And unfortunately, there is absolutely no getting that back. I will always encourage my children to remain children for as long as they can. I refuse to allow our home and our lives to be conducive to inappropriate aging. I know they will grow up, but they don’t need to do it too soon.
A little different today. I couldn’t have a post without a picture! This is actually a collage that I did while at North Carolina School for the Arts in 1996. As you may can see, I had issues with time then too.