There’s something that happens around the age of seven. Teeth have fallen out, grown up teeth start growing in, the baby fat in their face starts to disappear; they grow taller, lankier. There’s a shift that happens when we view these kids in their “awkward stage” as people like to say. And, to be frank, they just start being extra weird. With this stage, adults start to expect them to be older and more mature. They expect them to start acting more like adults.
Recently, in a local Facebook group, the type where judgment-veiled-in-concern and humble-brag-comments abound (I’m sure you’re a part of a similar one), a mom with two toddlers took to her imaginary soapbox and declared that big kids who use the beach entry pool (at our local gym) when there are little kids around is not ok.
She insisted that these Big Kids, playing their Big Kid games were taking up the space where little kids were. Where they were being a “bad” example with their rough play.
Imagine the hypocrisy of wanting them to act like adults but not simply asking them to watch out for the little kids… like an adult.
But that’s neither here nor there.
I can remember being that mom, with only young kids, being annoyed at the big kids at the park. The ones that climb on top of the slide, or are hogging the swings. I remember thinking big kids have no place trick or treating. Halloween is a holiday for little kids, I remember declaring.
What I forgot to remember is that little kids eventually grow up.
As a mom to a 7-year-old, I’m realizing that as he ages, a place for him isn’t as readily carved out in the world. He still wants to play on the playground and swim in the beach entry pool but what happens to that yearning when an adult tells him, with their words or actions, that he’s not welcome there?
We are so quick to want our children to grow up. I see it all the time with the words people use:
You’re too old for that.
Act your age.
That’s what babies do/like/act like.
If we truly want our kids to hang on to the innocence of childhood as long as possible, the judgement of big kids doing “little kid” activities needs to stop.
For me, as I inevitably enter this realm of only having big kids, I promise myself this: I will encourage my kids no matter the age to be kind to people and to enthusiastically find ways to have fun. Being a grown up will come soon enough.
For you, if you see a big kid playing at the pool (or playground, or trick or treating, or insert activity reserved for only little kids here), give them a high five. Then give their worried mom a smile. We’re all in this together.