|These are the kind of fashion decisions 'Big' little girls are apt to make...|
Kiley is a “big girl”, as she reminds me at least a thousand times a day. She wears big girl pants (not diapers), sleeps in a big girl bed, and rides a big girl bike. She even uses the big girl potty (not the potty-chair), though I must admit she is barely big enough to accomplish this and is perched quite precariously on the edge of the seat when she does. (There have even been a couple of incidents where she slipped off of the big girl potty in mid-process, resulting in an unpleasant situation, and recriminations from me about her being more careful and from her about me being more watchful. One of the many hazards of being a big girl I’m afraid.) Because she is a big girl, she can’t understand why she is not allowed to do certain other things that big girls do. Things like ride in the front seat of the car, use a metal knife and fork, or go out front by herself. At three years old, this longing to do what she is not yet mature enough to do will be a perpetual condition that she will struggle with for at least the next eighteen years and even beyond. “Stop treating me like a child” is the universal demand of all those who are still children.
Being a big girl is like being married; it’s not a destination it’s a journey. Big girlhood is a relative condition that slowly evolves over many years and even decades. That is hard for a three year old, sixteen year old, and sometimes even a sixty year old to understand. So I suppose it can be quite frustrating for the big girl in question when she has achieved big girl standing and yet does not fully partake in big girl privileges. This can be exhibited by minor or major divergences between big girl status and big girl abilities.
For a three-year-old, the minor divergences between desires and abilities are legion and are the kind that makes a caregiver give pause and contemplate whether the big girl in question is ready for that particular step. (Managing a big girl, of any age, is an art. It’s kind of like fishing. If you give them too much slack they spit the hook out and are gone from you. If you don’t give them enough slack they break the line and are gone from you.) Sometimes, however, what your big girl believes is within her power and abilities is so far out of the realm of possibility that it’s ludicrous, (like the sixteen-year-old who thinks she should be able to go to Cancun with her friends for spring break.)
Just the other day we were out on the deck when I suggested that it was lunchtime. Mackey, my “little girl”, immediately chimed in with: “Nuggets and fries!” Inspired by this suggestion, Kiley added, “Yeah, let’s go to McDonald’s!” I was in a good mood and both girls had been angelic all day, so I acquiesced to their demands and we all piled into the car. On our way to McDonald’s the “big girl” in the back proposed: “Just drop me off at Friendly’s. I’m going to get some ice cream.” This from someone who is firmly strapped into a car seat, by the way. I briefly entertained the idea of dropping a three-year-old off at Friendly’s with a five-dollar bill in her hand but decided that was probably not in her best interest. “No, we’re going to McDonlad's”, I replied. This instigated a discussion reminiscent of many debates I’ve had in the course of raising three teenage girls and ended in similar fashion: with me laying down the law and her feeling that she was the victim of unjust oppression.
Such is the condition of the “big girl”. It has always been thus and always will be. We, none of us, are ever as big as we think we are. From the toddler learning to walk, to the teenager learning to drive, to the mother of grown children learning to “let go”, one hallmark of maturity reached only leads to another milestone yet to be conquered. That is only as it should be. For in the final analysis, Kiley becoming a “big girl” is nothing more than her growing beyond what she already is. And if any of us stop doing that then it’s time to pack it in.