Toronto Zoo

Growing up

You know how you see a picture of your kid from 10 years ago, and you know it’s your kid, and you even know it was you who took the picture, but you can’t for your life figure out how the toddler in the picture turned into the teenaged giant standing beside you? Or how you measure your kids on new year’s day (a tradition in our house) and realize that they’ve all grown at least three-and-a-half inches since last year?

It’s easy, in the hustle and bustle of making lunches, driving to practices, arranging playdates, washing laundry – all that day to day stuff – not to notice that our kids are growing up. It’s easy just to keep plugging along until you wake up on morning and realize that they’re no longer kids.

Of course, these changes are actually easiest to see in their physical growth, as in old photographs and measurements on the wall. It’s even harder to see their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth, and every now and again I have to remind myself how far they’ve come, how much they’ve matured.

The other day, my eldest son came to me. “Dad,” he said, “I want to make sushi for dinner next week. Here’s a list of ingredients I need you to pick up when you go grocery shopping.” I was shocked. Not that he would want to cook dinner (he loves cooking and intends to be a chef). Not that he would choose to make sushi (he’s loved sushi ever since he first tasted it as a toddler). But that he would actually think far enough ahead to plan what day he wanted to make it, then check which ingredients we needed, and then give me a list before I needed to go shopping. For a kid whose strengths haven’t exactly been in planing and organization, he made me take stock of just how much he’s matured.

On Saturday, as we were trying to get my middle son off to his basketball tournament (late as always), he said to my wife, “Hey mom, can you please get my water bottle ready.” And yes, he really did say ‘please’. Without even being reminded. Then, when she brought it to him, he actually thanked her. Sincerely. There were no rude demands, no callous rushing off with the bottle. I gave my wife a considering look. She shrugged. “And he hasn’t had a real temper in months,” she said. And when I thought about it, she was right. It’s been ages since he really had a meltdown.

On Sunday afternoon we were driving out to a favourite family hiking spot (much to the dismay of the kids, who were desperate to use every moment of video game time before the holidays ended). As we went through a street with lots of retail businesses, my wife got my attention and nodded her head in the direction of my youngest. “He’s reading,” she said. And sure enough, there he was, sounding out the shop signs as we passed, which is a major step for a kid who was struggling so badly with reading even just a few months ago that he wouldn’t open a book.

That’s not to say that they don’t have childish things that still need some maturing. They’re all still kids, after all, and there are plenty of adults (myself included) who could stand to see some maturation. Even so, it was really cool to be reminded of how much my kids are growing, not just on the growth chart, but also in their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves.

And it’s all pretty amazing when you think about it. In a few short years, they go from being unable even to feed themselves to cooking for the family, from crying and throwing tantrums to engaging in polite conversation, from babble sounds to reading the world around them.

It gives you hope that they really will grow up to be mature and responsible adults one day.