Sweet still at sixteen

June 3, 2010

Andy and I were talking and she suggested that it might be nice to post something on how kids, even at they continue to grow (and despite being intermittently mouthy, rude, entitled and impossible) actually remain cute and sweet to us parents.

When our little crawlers were still in car-seats, the big boys and girls kicking up sand at the park and racing up and down the slide represented a stark contrast between our kids (cute and adorable) and those other kids (brutal and rather advanced, maybe even talking in sentences, not always kind sentences).

Soon our kids become climbers and talkers; we coo at babies but cast the stink-eye at those kindergarten brutes with their fully developed play styles, and excluding behaviors, while our adorable little parallel players are just plain cute.

I remember when we started in kindergarten and those gianormous sixth graders seemed to tower like ruffian brutes over our little blossoms in the sheltered sandbox adjacent to their cozy class.

But by the time our children were leaving elementary school, our still-adorable (most of the time) sixth graders looked like vulnerable little children next to the deep-voiced man-boys and the developed and make-up-wearing young ladies dominating these petite cusp-of-middle schoolers about to sink or swim in a pool of full-on high schoolers.

As my older nears the end of sophomore year in high school and my younger is himself a recently-minted teenager, they really are, at least to us admittedly biased parents, essentially sweet and still cute.

It makes me happy that Nate has such sweet friends—and Andy and I are now able to see high schoolers as cute in a way that has never seemed possible back in stroller days.  I suppose we saw the other teens we had crushes on as cute when we were actually in high school, but the nastiness and oppositionality of teens gets so much ink (or whatever one calls virtual bytes) that it seems worth noting the counterpoint.

When I look at Nate’s friends I see an emerging warmth, a hug here and there, authentic interest in each other, encouragement and easy humor that now grows like flowers in the rich fundament of all that middle school teasing and general anxiety-driven faux-jocular cruelty (not that they weren’t cute even then, they were).

Andy and I love that Nate’s friends represent diversity united by friendship—white, Asian, African-American and Latino blending in an easier way than when we were kids.

If you are parenting a newborn, or a toddler, or an elementary, middle or high schooler, the point of this post is to encourage you not to lament that your babies will grow up and no longer be those cute little beings they were yesterday—rather to trust that the cuteness factor has a longevity at least as enduring as we parents (and I fully trust that parents of full-on grown-ups would likely attest that their kids never really stop being adorable).

So, do not despair the march of time—just savor where your kids are (and all those you choose to care about and love) today, and trust that the cuteness doesn’t stop; in fact, the better able we become at seeing to spirit, the more the cuteness we see ever-unfolding in our children tends to generalize out to the wider world, to other people’s children (and, after all, who isn’t somebody’s child?) evolving toward an easy and appreciative love for all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly June 3, 2010 at 9:09 am

“Do not despair the march of time—just savor where your kids are today.” Amen, brother. So hard to do, and yet so necessary if you want to truly enjoy and bask in these awesome little people entrusted to us.


privilegeofparenting June 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm

It’s funny how it seems to be our nature to cling to things, and yet trust in the constant flow and change does seem to help us be happy.


Kristen @ Motherese June 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Wonderful sentiments. Thanks, Andy and Bruce, for these thoughts today.

Your post reminded me of a conversation I had last summer with a friend who is a single mom to a 6-year old girl. I was telling her how, at every stage of Big Boy’s life, Husband and I have turned to each other and said, with absolute certainty, “This is the greatest stage.” She confessed to doing the exact same thing in each stage of her daughter’s life.

So here’s to embracing and celebrating each and every greatest stage – individually and all at once.


privilegeofparenting June 3, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Absolutely—and when we make it all at once, somewhere there’s one of our collective kids being cute at every age.


Erica@PinesLakeRedhead June 3, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Both of my boys are teenagers and will head into 9th and 12th grade in the fall. I look at them and my heart still melts even as my eldest is on the cusp of manhood and my youngest is in his awkward stage. These children will always be a part of me and I see the best of me in them. I just need to brace myself for the transition into college!


privilegeofparenting June 3, 2010 at 9:50 pm

They just never stop melting our hearts, do they? I guess it might be in the thorough melting pot of the heart that we parents ultimately come together.


Beth K June 4, 2010 at 6:06 am

Our 15-year old daughter Lauren flew to France alone for her first time the other day. The airline caused her some frustration, and she was stressed when her first attempt to use an ATM failed. She was pissy toward me and her dad right up until she boarded, but then we hugged goodbye, and she said, “I love you.” It melted my heart.


privilegeofparenting June 4, 2010 at 6:41 am

Classic. Under anxiety they spill over confusion, hurt, aggression into us like a psychological air-sickness bag—not fun, but consistent with the fact that our kids have incredibly powerful bonds with us and trust us with their very worst feelings (those who do not love them so might be more likely to retaliate, or at the very least disengage).

I hope Lauren has a great trip (and brace yourself for the possibility of further aloofness upon her return in the context of newly minted feelings of autonomy. It takes a while before we are so clearly ourselves that we can just be mushy and open and consistently affectionate and still know we’re not merely dependent babies.

Hope you have a great time going nowhere and being everywhere.


krk June 4, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I find that my children, who are beyond college age, are no longer cute.
Rather, they are so etched into my heart and being that they have become
delightful and charming ,and I enjoy every moment with them. Like fine wine
that improves with age. It is just a “growing thing” for child and parent alike.


privilegeofparenting June 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Yes, an ever-growing thing. I like that. Cheers


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