• A Tell-Tale Sign Your Child Is Growing Up

    Posted on August 12, 2014 by Darcy in Crib Notes, Parenting.

    About a month and a half ago, I sat on a bench in our neighborhood park with my then almost four-year-old son after preschool pick up one day. We were having a snack, and he was anxiously waiting to see if any of his friends would show up at the park, constantly eyeing the gate at the end of the green square and sizing up each child that entered. He paused from taking a sip of his juice as a young girl on a scooter pulled up to the gate and began to enter. He quickly abandoned his juice beside me and ran towards the gate.

    “LUCY! LUCY! LUCY!” he yelled as he ran towards the girl. Only there was a problem. The little girl in question was not his friend Lucy, but a stranger, and my son only realized it as she entered and gave him a bewildered who are you!?! sort of look. He never stopped running as he sped past her with his head down, arcing back across the park towards my position on the bench, where he arrived, face beet-red (a curse he inherited from me, sigh). He picked up his juice and shifted uncomfortably in front of me, using me partly as a shield from the misidentified little girl, but never making eye contact with me for fear that I might point out his mistake. (I didn’t). In that moment I recognized something that I had not seen in my children before – sheer humiliation.

    I know the feeling all too well. I have waved to strangers from afar way too enthusiastically thinking they were friends only to awkwardly shrug when I walked past them. I have tripped on busy subway stairs and imaginary cracks in the sidewalk only to look around sheepishly to see who noticed my footfalls. I have made it through hours of work meetings, social exchanges and pleasantries only to glance in a mirror and see a large piece of spinach affixed obnoxiously between my two front teeth from my salad lunch hours earlier. These are the small daily humiliations that are part and parcel of being a human. And while I decline to offer any stories of the true humiliations I have endured, I understand that being humiliated is perfectly and utterly normal.

    But the ability to be humiliated is not something we’re born with. My toddler still unabashedly craps his pants and declares “POO POO, Mommy!” in mixed company. Even as few as three months ago, my preschooler would declare loudly at restaurants, “My butt itches!” and reach in his pants for a scratch. But recently, some sort of switch has gone off, and I now know that innocence is fading. My son is becoming more of a person everyday, and the butt-scratching freedom of toddlerhood is disappearing. I mourn for it a bit because I know he’ll never be that unselfconscious again. And that means he is growing up.

    Ugh, Mom, you are soooo embarrassing!

    Ugh, Mom, you are soooo embarrassing!

    From a sociological perspective, the thing about humiliation is that it is necessary for the functioning of a polite society. For example, earlier this week as we got dressed one day, my son fluffied – the much more genteel term used in our household to refer to farts – and left us in a cloud of a particularly noxious odor. When I confronted him he said to me, “[Our cat] must have come in here last night and fluffied all over the place.” Um, okay, probably not, but this sort of blame-shifting in an effort to avoid embarrassment is all part of that growing process. (Note: he has not yet reached the point where he will not fluffy in front of people, but he’s a boy and abandoning that habit may be my life’s work.)

    My little boy is growing up and becoming a small but (somewhat) functioning member of society. All of a sudden there are a litany of things that out of nowhere appear to embarrass him. He will not ride in a stroller anymore – even when he is exhausted and we’ve been walking around the city all day – because he is afraid “someone will see!” He will not leave the house in his pajamas because, again, someone will see. He will not go into the ladies room in public with me without loudly protesting that he can’t go in there because… yup, someone will see.

    A couple of weeks ago my son turned four (which might explain all of my teary-eyed reflection on farts). That same week we were riding on a bus home from summer camp when a particularly attractive young woman came on board. He gawked, he gaped, and he stared at her. That is, until she noticed and I said to her, “I think my son is admiring you.” He then proceeded to turn his back to me (and her) and turn beet-red. When we arrived home he told my husband that I “embarrassed” him. I may be sad that my son is growing up and has to endure all the gruesome self-consciousness that comes along with it (he gets embarrassed about girls!), but it’s a whole new power to know that I have ability to embarrass him, and that definitely counts for something. And yes, I realize that this means that my days blogging about his ridiculousness may be drawing to a close sooner than I thought…

    See it here on the Huffington Post

18 Responses so far.

  1. My eldest doesn’t want to be called a baby anymore. I feel sad sometimes but that’s how it is.

  2. Natasha says:

    Yipes! My boys are two. Thanks for the reminder to cherish their fearlessness.

  3. They grow up way to fast it seems like my 7 year old was just 4 and I was not looking forward to the next year when she would start school. I guess she felt more grown up when she could read and write and I did not have to read everything to her anymore.

  4. It always makes me cry when I see them start to lose their innocence. My oldest was in kindergarten when it happened. Sigh. It’s rough being mommies to these little souls.

  5. Aw, what a cute story 🙂 My little guy is about to turn three, but I know we’ll be there soon.

  6. Michelle says:

    He is already getting embarrassed at 4 years old!! So cute. Loved this post!

  7. Love this! I’ve noticed that my 5-year-old boasts less about having just made “stinky gas” than she used to. Or she tries to blame it on her little brother 🙂

  8. Rosey says:

    I told my son’s kindergarten teacher something he’d said about class. Completely innocent. But he turned red and told me on the way home that I embarrassed him, lol. I’m more careful these days. 😉

  9. What a cute moment to see…I remember when my nephew first started to feel embarrassment..he didn’t handle it too well.

  10. Kids growing up is a sad and exciting time in our lives isn’t it? My 6 year old told me just the other day how she didn’t want to take Ariel gummies to school because they were for babies, awww! (But she totally still eats them at home LOL)

  11. Menu says:

    I can’t wait till my baby stops with the butt itching! but seriously, I noticed he’s starting to “grow up” when he chucked the paci at 3 months, and stopped cuddling too 🙁

  12. I just thought about my youngest is turning 8 next month – and my oldest is now 13 Kung! It’s a hard pill to swallow for sure 🙁

  13. I was watching my 6 year old daughter singing the other day and asked myself when she will start not wanting to do it because of embarassment… its a crappy part of growing up I think.

  14. I never thought about this but it really is a sign that their psyche is changing. No longer are they oblivious to everything around them. This is such a great post and thank you for helping me realize just how big my own kids are getting.

  15. My oldest is only two but the other day he did tell me ” Mom i’m not a baby i’m a man” lol maybe that was my sign!

  16. Ann Bacciaglia says:

    Kids grow up so fast. My babies are now 16 and 19….when did that happen!!!!

  17. sigh – they grow so fast don’t they… I wish I could keep Max little forever.

  18. Kung says:

    For me the sign was when he was taller then me.. at the age of 13! and he keeps telling me about all that he wants to do.. i feel old

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.