Watching My Toddler Grow Is Joyful and Painful

by ParentCo. December 15, 2017

A kid is feeding to a cat

I was unloading some groceries from the car the other day when my toddler grabbed a bag and said, “I got it, mama.” In an instant, my heart stopped and melted, and I basically had to take a moment to re-boot before I thanked him and watched him carry the bag into the house. It’s not the first time he’s said or done such a thing. Lately, it’s been happening more and more. The other day, he helped hold my jacket closed when it was windy outside and I forgot to zip up. I picked him up to cross a busy parking lot and, as he noticed my jacket flailing in the wind, he pulled it tight and said, “I got it, mama.” He’ll be three in a few months, and it seems like every day he’s older than the day before. That’s how growing works, obviously, but it’s more than that. Each day he increasingly shows us just how mature, astute, and observant he is becoming. From the way he happily throws away his own trash after a meal to how he knows when it’s time to feed the cat, we can see that he’s developing into a helpful, responsible little boy. It’s clear that he’s paying attention to the little world that surrounds him, and that is all at once a wonderful and a heart-breaking thing. Because the world is not always a kind place. “I got it, mama.” Any mother who has watched her child grow up and away from the close, steady protection of her loving arms knows what it’s like to confront the realization that her baby will one day face this world without her. It’s daunting and scary, especially when your child is young, and you have no idea what to expect next. My little guy is my first and so all his firsts are my firsts as well. I stare into his round little face and observe his doe eyes and button nose, and I can’t imagine him ever facing the pain and struggle that being human entails. I want to keep him safe and protected forever. I want him to grow, of course, but I want to be able to always be there to guide him, help him, and shield him from the world’s harm. This is impossible, of course. And with each new skill he learns, he shows me that he is comfortable growing up and away from me. “I got it, mama.” It’s easier to process the more common joys and the challenges of being a parent. Your child does something silly, and you laugh. They do something exasperating, and you take a deep breath and try to react in a way that won’t leave them scarred and resentful for life. But when they do something that is so simple, but also so heart-rending – like showing that they want to take care of and help you – the appropriate reaction is more difficult to reach. Because the act evokes a feeling so deep that it’s unfamiliar. It’s beautiful and it’s painful. It’s watching your baby grow up before your eyes. It’s realizing how incredibly self-aware they are. It’s hoping you’ve been a good example. It’s wanting so badly to protect them. And it’s knowing that no matter how big they get or how independent they become, they will always be locked safely in your heart in a way they could never possibly begin to understand. “I got it, mama.”



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