Several times in the last few weeks, my husband and I have woken up to a pitiful whimpering from our son’s bedroom. He cries that his legs hurt, and writhes in pain. “It’s just growing pains,” my husband assures me, as he stumbles back to bed.
They may not indicate that anything is wrong with my sweet little boy, but these aches in his legs have been causing me heartache nonetheless. I vividly remember my own growing pains, which persisted right through adolescence and young adulthood. As a small child, I recall crying in the closet, angling my sobs up towards the laundry shoot that came from my parents’ bedroom in the hopes that they would hear me. No matter what time it was, no matter what time she had to be up in the morning, my mom would come down and rub my legs, urging me to pass my pain to her through her warm hands. [My dad rubbed my legs thousands of times, too, but there seems to be a universal longing for one’s mother when sick or hurt.]
Thinking back on those long nights with my mom at the foot of my bed, I do not hesitate to sit on the floor next to my son and massage his legs and feet until he falls back to sleep. He is only 2.5, and likely will be tall and lanky like his dad, so I probably have many more hours of trying to ease his growing pains in the years ahead. I am sure there will be times when I am too tired to sit with him, so just urge him to go back to sleep or offer him medicine to numb the pain. But right now, as my son endeavors to understand the changes underway in his little body, I am struggling right alongside him to come to terms with his transition from a baby to a boy.
Having a small child forces one to be ever-conscious of the passage of time, something that has always made me uncomfortable. For as long as I can remember, my birthdays have been bittersweet because I felt my childhood and then my youth slipping away. When asked what magic power I’d like as a child, I always answered that I wished I could pause time. Since my son was born, everyone – from my parents, to my colleagues, to strangers on the street – has echoed the same advice, “Enjoy them while they’re young, they grow up so fast!” I agree, but how? I try to spend as much time with my kids as I can, and to make our time together count by giving them my full attention whenever possible and planning one-on-one activities on occasion.
Now that my son’s verbal skills are more developed, I am aware that he has his own ideas and interests – things that come from neither my husband nor I but are all his own. It is only a matter of time before those ideas and interests lead him away from us, whether it’s to go skateboarding in the evening or to science summer camp. I enjoy getting to know him, and watching him learn about himself and the world around him, but I miss the cuddly baby boy who used to ride in the front-pack with me for hours on end.
My son no longer needs me to feed him, or blow his nose, or put on his shoes. Soon he will not want me to carry him up the stairs or play make believe with him. So when he cries at night and asks me to rub his legs, I will cherish the chance to take care of him. Because we all have growing pains at times …