it is a commonly known fact among parents that when you have a baby you know a growth spurt is coming when they start to nurse (or bottle feed) a BUNCH. and when they are toddlers there is the uptick in snacking and a few well placed tantrums in a row to let you know. as tweens there are the growing pains, and as teens they just appear at the breakfast table one day in comically too short pajama bottoms that you could have sworn fit the day before.
but there is a time in there when it's less easy to tell. the growth spurts in the 8 to 10 years old set seem to be more subtle. a more gradual process that's not so easy to detect. even as it is happening right before your very eyes. at least in my house.
when the duke was that age the only way i knew he had a growth spurt is i had to go and purchase new clothes. wow, he's really growing i'd think. but wingman wears mainly his brother's hand me downs, so i don't have that consistently to go on. fortunately, wingman has a 'tell' when he's about to sprout up. and it's not a subtle one.
the last time was about 9 months ago. i went into the back room and he had the box of old thomas the tank engine videos out. he ended up watching them all and kept watching on and off for the next week. then he got out his wooden train set that hadn't seen the light of day in about a million years. he made tracks and took those apart and made more for the next week or so. then, he was done. the videos were stuffed back into the closet, the train set went back to where it had been unearthed from. two weeks after that we were buying new pants.
he hangs on for the move forward by going back.
and it isn't just the nostalgia of and sudden interest in old toys and favorite videos that signals a growth spurt in wingman. cut to last week. it was just the two of us at target. we were tooling around and i had to be in the office supply section. you can go look at the toys if you want i told him. no, that's fine. i'll just hang out here with you. which i thought was weird, that he wasn't interested in the toys.
so we're done with office supplies and headed towards cleaning supplies. and there on the end cap was a valentine's display of housewares. and he saw something and went right to it and had to have it. oh, mama can i have this! it's only 1.99! that? you really want that? yes! it's awesome! um, sure. okay. and it was this;
yes, a plastic bowl with a smiling bear and hearts.
now, you wouldn't think it to look at him because he's 'all boy' and snark, but wingman has always gravitated to things like this. well not hearts, which he says he cannot stand (all photographic evidence to the contrary), but just smiley things. things that are soft and happy. since he was a baby until now. things like that bowl make him happy. they also give him security.
for instance, last summer he went to YMCA camp for the first time. for a week. he had been waiting forEVER to be old enough to go. he was packed up and on the bus and off he went. i cried. and then i figured it would be like the duke, he'd jump right into camp and be sad it was time to come home.
turns out, i found out MUCH later, he was horribly homesick the WHOLE time. he said he had fun, enjoyed it a lot, but the homesickness never went away. and the very first chance he got he went to the camp store and spent all of his money on two stuffed animals and slept with them both every night. he told me he still felt homesick, but that the stuffed animals made him feel much better. they've joined pooh bear on the bed and he sleeps with them still.
and yes, they are smiley and sweet and soft and they comforted him when he needed it. and while i am sad to think of him missing home so much, i am proud of his ability to tend to his emotional needs.
so cut to the bowl with the bear and the hearts. he knew immediately he had to have it. and, i did too. (thank god. i wish every aspect of parenting came so easily.) he eats out of it every night. and he will continue to do so until one day i'll notice when he's setting the table that he doesn't set it at his place. instead there will be just a regular white plate like the rest of us. shortly after that we'll be buying new pants.
and the bowl will go in the cabinet. and i'll see it occasionally when he digs it out, or when my goddessdaughter or youngest niece come to visit. eventually, i won't see it anymore.
the thing about growth spurts in children is that we tend to think of them as purely physical. but there's a whole emotional component and when you're little it seems to hard to put a finger on. you know you feel...something. but what is it? it's hard to describe, because you feel it but you also "feel" it.
babies nurse more for the nourishment to sustain the growth spurt and as they do they stay close to their mamas longer than usual, holding on and keeping safe until it passes.
being a toddler is just one HUGE growth spurt. and they tantrum because they have little to no ability to adequately verbalize their feelings. god what an intensity to grow so much so fast. can you imagine? and not just feelings of i'm mad i'm sad i'm hungry i don't like those socks. more the WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH ME feeling that is surging through their tiny bodies, and not just physically. sure they snack for nourishment, but the tantrums are the hold-me-closer-even-as-i-scream-because-trust-me-i-need-to-scream nourishment for their exploding souls.
tweens need empathy and understanding for their growing pains just as they do for their rapidly growing inner emotional lives, too. teens need new clothes to cover their person and they also need the same assurance that you've got their back for the rest of it. 'it' being a very big deal even if they can't quite explain it fully. it's easy to notice too small pajama pants and fix that. but it's just a symbol of a larger expansion going on inside. one that doesn't need 'fixing,' just noticing. and understanding.
note to self; keep that last paragraph handy for a not so distant future reminder.
for now, wingman has his bowl. and for how long i don't know. and as much as i like to see him grow and mature, i kinda hope he eats out of it for a little longer than i know he will. because i miss my little kids. and i think i always will.