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PARENTING PERSPECTIVES: When little kids simply aren't little anymore

Val Kleppen, Parenting Perspectives columnist1 / 2
One of the hardest lessons a parent faces is learning to accept when your children are no longer little kids anymore. Special to The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — Every day I realize more and more how not-so-little my children are. Their nicknames of "Little Miss" and "Little Man" will soon be irrelevant in reference to my big kids.

Little Man is obsessed with how big and strong he is, taking every opportunity to flex his muscles or help carry something. Second to his strength is his independence, which grows every day in tasks he wants to complete "by myself."

Little Miss is all but a young woman, exercising meticulous care in her wardrobe choices, talking with her hands and figuring out all of life's mysteries. Her inquisitive mind is too smart for any potential wool Mama might try to pull over her eyes.

The greatest sorrow I have over my kids losing their littleness is the fact our days of snuggling have become few and far between. Mama's lap simply isn't big enough for both kids, and they're no longer comfortable sinking their heads into my chest.

They've got their own wit, their own goals and their own agendas, not wanting to do what Mama advises or asks them to.

They even tell their own jokes now. My favorite from Little Man is an original three-year-old's masterpiece.:

"Knock-Knock."

"Who's there?"

"Banana bread."

"Banana bread who?"

"Banana bread!"

It makes me laugh every time. Who wouldn't be excited to have banana bread at their door?

A recent joke made up by Little Miss is not at all my favorite, and it goes:

"Knock-Knock."

"Who's there?"

"Interrupting Mama."

"Interrupting Ma—"

"GO TO YOUR ROOM!"

She's clever, that one. A little dagger to the heart, but clever. And if I'm honest, I probably deserve the butt-end of that joke.

All this to say they aren't my little munchkins anymore. A little man who can simultaneously tell a banana bread joke and carry firewood has earned his rites as big kid.

A little miss who dresses herself in accordance with the weather forecast, while she may not ever make her bed or figure out how to put dirty clothes in her hamper, is still showcasing a degree of responsibility we always hoped would emerge.

And yet...

At night when I'm sure they're fast asleep, I may still sneak into their rooms to make sure they're tucked in and covered up, and admire their sweet, snoozing faces.

I may still carefully pick Little Man up from his bed and rock him while he dreams.

I may still whisper lullabies in Little Miss' ear in the middle of her beauty sleep.

I may still do whatever I can to hold on to the fleeting youth of these precious kids in my care.

The toughest job we have as parents is to raise our kids to be independent thinkers and responsible beings.

And perhaps, the toughest jobs our kids have, is to let their mamas snuggle them no matter how independent, responsible, or big they get.

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