They know, but they don’t know.
Every day I see our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, I give them a hug and say the same thing, “Stop growing up.” And each time I do, their answer is always the same.
They say no because they don’t know.
The Girly Girls’ days are a strange mixture of independence (“I can do it myself!”) and dependance (“Can you help me?”). A delicate balance indeed. It’s an awkward time in their lives, one that will last well into their teenage years. But as difficult as going through this phase of life will be for them, it’s going to be harder for me. I should know, I’ve lived through it before.
How do you hold onto a precious little bird you’ve nurtured since the day it was born but still let it grow? How do you open your hand, let it stumble, let it fall, and eventually stand back and watch as it flies away without running after it just to hold it one last time?
At ages nine and ten, our granddaughters are still little girls but wanting so badly to be more.
To do more.
They want to be grown up just like their older sister. I tell them they really don’t. They should stay little girls forever. Their answer is always the same.
The protective layers of their storybook childhood are slowly being peeled back a little each day, and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. Sure, perhaps slow it down a little, but stopping it? Growing up is happening regardless of what I say or what I do. I’m happy for them. I truly am.
But also, I’m incredibly sad.
Last week, Little One pulled her own tooth, walked into the kitchen, and proudly showed me. When I asked if she was going to place it under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy, she gave a side glance to her younger sister and tucked her chin. They both smiled and said in unison, “Papa, we know.”
The page has been turned on the Tooth Fairy. And with it, another layer of their childhood has been peeled away. This time in their lives is nothing short of magical, something I tell them every day. They’ll never be here again. The closest they’ll come is with their own children. But by that time, the stresses and time constrictions of adulting will bear down upon them.
It won’t be the same.
The Girly Girls are growing up. There’s no denying that. And there’s no stopping it. Soon they’ll no longer be considered children. Their page is turning — a page that will lead them into the next chapter of their lives. But if they’re fortunate and blessed like I have been, they’ll get to travel back and revisit it. They’ll get to turn back the pages in their book and live it all again — with their own children and then again with their grandchildren.
Just like I have.
By that time, they’ll really will know — because they will have lived full lives. A life that started with a magical childhood. A magical childhood like I had growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]