When my son was born in Ontario over 24 years ago I often would utter, “stop growing!” He continued to blatantly disregard my motherly command, of course, though I wasn’t happy about it.
Sometimes, I huffed the phrase in practicality-driven frustration as my 11 pounder-at-birth seemed to expand beyond his many adorable first-borns-are-so-spoiled outfits before I even had them on him long enough to snap one solitary photo. As I squat and sausaged him through yet another too-tight wardrobe change, I begged him to slow down. All I wanted was for the adorable hand-crafted fuzzy snowsuit sent up by my aunt in Newfoundland to last for at least one snowfall.
Other times, “stop growing” was muttered because my once immobile infant was now a much too curious toddler who poked toast into the VCR, manhandled the poor dog and was suddenly big enough to climb onto the cupboard and taunt my sanity with the butcher block’s weapons of instant toddler death. At the very least, he’d surely maim himself enough getting into everything to garner a visit from child protection services.
I needed my firstborn to slow down until I got caught up with what to expect after expecting, I suppose. My then mother-in-law – who had lost her youngest in a tragic car accident – cured me in an instant when she gently reminded me what the consequences of such a request would actually mean. “Let him grow. Please. Encourage it to always continue,” she gently cautioned. I took her words to heart and allowed nature to take its course and made the decision to just go with the flow.
My daughter? I let her grow at will. If an outfit wouldn’t haul over her chubby thighs or didn’t last long enough for a solitary selfie, I passed the garment easily on. When she seemed too roly-poly from breast milk to roll over, I laughed as my sister-in-law pushed her dizzingly back and forth until she was doing it on her own. Crawling quickly followed. From cupboard climbing to DVD collection destroying – bring it on, baby girl.
But there’s a difference in growing and growing up. That, I don’t encourage. I’ve long considered myself a child at heart. Unexpected snowfalls in springtime? Beautiful. Random bottom explosions? Delightful. Yes. My humour can only be considered quite childish. Once, my son ran down a grassy hill wet from morning dew. Even though I knew the outcome, I did nothing to stop him, chuckling to myself as he sped and then hee-hawing until I wet myself when he landed face first in the mucky creek below. He was 8.
I know I’m no typical grown-up. Most adults tidy before they run off to play for the day. Not me. They’ll be no adulting on a day when there’s fun to be had. Sorry? Not sorry. My kids soiled good outfits rolling in the grass and they ruined many lipsticks playing make-believe. They also inherited my free spirit, demonstrating it in their often up-for-anything for a laugh actions.
As Neverland prepares to head to Newfoundland, I’m reminded of why the statue of Peter Pan stands in Bowring Park. Like my ex-husband’s mother wisely reminded me that day; not everyone gets the chance to grow up. That’s true. Ageing truly is a gift. But perhaps more importantly, growing up doesn’t have to mean being grown up. Growing older should be celebrated, but refusing to act that way should be exalted.