Growth Charts

“My goodness, I can’t believe how BIG she’s gotten!”

There is not a parent alive who hasn’t heard that line. And what do we say to it?

When I’m being brutally honest, my response is, “Really? I see her everyday and I didn’t notice.”

Children’s growth, like the movement of the earth, is a slow but constant thing. No one notices how far away from the sun we are until one day we wake up at our usual time and it is still dark outside. The same applies to children growing up. I know they are growing because I have a basic understanding of biology and I feed them almost every day. They eat, therefore, they grow. I don’t notice how much taller or wider or different they are because their daily increases are too small. It’s the people who only see them occasionally, like aunts, uncles, and insurance agents who can compare where they are to where they were.

Until you bring out the hand-me-downs. When you dress one of your children in the clothes of her older brother or sister, you get an instant—and frankly, jarring—picture of the relentless march of time.

Recently, we pulled out some of the clothes that Noah (who is seven) and Clara (who is six) used to wear to try on Natalie and Anna (who are three). The clothes, of course, fit the twins perfectly.

When did that happen? How had Natalie and Anna grown up so fast that they can fit into the PJs that Noah wore so recently? Wasn’t it just a month or two ago when he slept in the fuzzy Winnie-the-Pooh footed pajamas? And when did he get too big for them? He really doesn’t fit into clothes that are sized by the month anymore, does he?

And, perhaps more importantly, how am I going to remember that these PJs belong in the twins’ dresser and not Noah’s?

Hand-me-downs are the ultimate growth chart. I can’t deny that my oldest baby is no longer a baby when my youngest babies are wearing his 4T clothing. Bringing an outfit out of storage brings back memories of the tiny person who once wore them so long ago. I can picture that little man exploring his world, cuddling his Mommy, and falling asleep with his hand in the yogurt cup (I’ve got to find that picture).

At the same time, hand-me-downs show how far his little sisters have come since being paper weights in swaddling clothes. It’s their turn to be the inquisitive ones, getting into everything they can reach and asking all of those questions. Noah still seeks answers, but he can look them up in his own books, now. Natalie and Anna still fit on my lap, but not in my hand anymore.

It’s a melancholy time, this handing down of the fuzzy PJs. I am proud of what all of my children have become, whether in cub scouts or potty training. Our goal, after all, is to guide them into adulthood to be good people. However, I can’t help but miss that little boy, that little girl, those tiny infants who brought so much unadulterated joy into my life. I guess there is only one thing to do now…

No, having another baby is not on the horizon. I just have to sit back and really enjoy who my kids are right now. And come up with a better response when someone tells me how much they’ve grown.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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