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Youth isn’t wasted on my son

“I don’t want to grow up.” Tyler, my oldest, then only three, looked up at me with serious eyes full of concern. “I want to be a baby.”

I looked down on him, tears welling. I had done this to him, I thought. I had given him this insecurity, along with his new baby brother. Distraught, with a touch of post-partum depression, I lovingly pushed his hair aside. It was the color of amber, like his eyes. My golden boy.

Of course, I did my best to reassure him that he could never be replaced, but he was no dummy. He heard and smelled his competition from a room away. We all did.

“Silly. You’ll always be my baby, no matter how old you are.” It was the truth. Always. Always. Always. Poo Poo Poo, may he live to be 100.

He looked up at me from his blue racing car toddler bed completely dissatisfied. “No. I want to be a baby!” He confirmed and then tried to crawl up my shirt.

Having a new baby was an adjustment for all of us. I figured he was going through what children typically did when a new sibling entered the household. He would out-grow it, I assured myself. But as the months and years went on, he not only did not outgrow it, he grew more and more resolved. The theme repeated itself, playing out sometimes subtly but often with huge dramatic tears over and over.

At four…

“I don’t like birthdays.”

At five…

“I don’t want to grow up.”

At six…

“I don’t want to grow old.”

At seven…

“I don’t want to die.”

At eight…

“I don’t want you to die.”

At nine…

“I don’t like birthdays. I don’t want to get older and have to leave my house. I don’t want to go away to sleep away camp. I don’t want to go away to college.”

At 10…

Breaking down into tears, desperate. “Mommy, I’m never going to be eight or nine or ten again! Once it’s gone, it’s gone! I mean, I kind of want to be a daddy and all, but…” Looks at me soulfully, sadly before emotion almost swallows his words. “I want to be the baby too.”

My poor, wonderful, sweet boy, he already knows the truth about growing up and growing older. He’s known it all along. And no matter how much I tell him that growing up is an adventure he will love, that he will experience things he can’t even imagine, that he can do and be anything, that the journey is a beautiful trip – the basics truths of life and death are already in him. When your eyes are open, you can’t help but see.

You wouldn’t know it to look at him. He’s a typical fifth grader; smart, goofy, athletic with lots of friends. He doesn’t have that edgy, pre-teen snark. He truly appreciates being young and revels in his childishness, clinging to the remnants of his babyhood. He joyfully snuggles with his mommy, treasures his stuffed toys and loves playing with the younger kids, leading them around like Peter Pan.

He might even engage in a game of ‘House’ where you can be sure he will cast himself as the baby. Or a puppy. They both suit him. So while my 10 year-old, crawling on the floor panting happily like a dog, might seem a little immature to you, believe me, he is wise beyond his years.


otto peter

Not actually my son, but the costume worked. Plus, he’s family. 🙂




About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

64 responses »


    One of your best. You should send these to sites and magazines that write about what you cover- everything from shape- to parenting to jeezabel U are an excellent storyteller and on equal to writers they publish. See if you can get a project

    Sent from my iPhone

    • totally appreciate. i’ve never been good at that part. i just keep waiting for someone to say – hey, you – yeah, you – let me give you a book deal. i’m not holding my breath, but really, thank you. 🙂

  2. I loved this! My oldest sounds a lot like yours. And at 13, he still says he doesn’t want to grow up. I don’t blame him one bit.

    Are you going to submit this to Yeah Write? You really should. It’s wonderful.

    • thank you so much. i was stressing a bit this morning over the beginning. i had an extra paragraph that i cut out.. you know how it is… 😉 and yeah, i’ll submit it.. thanks for the boost. having an off day. 🙂

  3. You could write about pedagogy and sociology …..
    You’re a great observer ,too,and we appreciate you ,so much!

  4. Oh I love his tender heart. And I agree with him 100%. I can decide is this is sad or happy. I think it’s both. And that’s the best.

  5. What a sweet, sweet boy you have 🙂

  6. Outstanding!

    My son, who just turned 13, is a lot like this. Very mature and mild natured, but also still very naive in certain ways. He builds with blocks and little kids are CRAZY about him!

    The best part is, they will grow up to be the best men ever!

  7. This was one of my favorites! Heart wrenching and beautiful and so terribly honest. When my oldest started talking about death it broke my heart that he finally understood the fragility of life. We all wish we were babies sometimes ( ok most of the time!)
    Great essay!

  8. He’s so sweet but it must be heartbreaking for at the same time!

  9. Aww he’s a smart kid! Stay young!

  10. What a sweet boy! I can just picture him crawling around playing puppy, because that’s something my kids do, too!

  11. Smart kid. Growing up means each day leaving behind a tiny bit of your younger self. Not many children stop to enjoy being little, instead thinking that being a grown up means being free to do whatever you please.

  12. So many great lines from this post. Growing up is bittersweet and looking back I wished I had cherished my childhood more. Perhaps, his wisdom is allowing him to do just that, enjoy what we wished we had when we had it. Great post.

  13. What a gift. What a lovely boy. I hope my boy still snuggles at that age. Right now, he sometimes says he wants to be a baby, but I think that’s just normal when you get a baby sister (which he has). He did have one evening after turning three when he cried that he would never be two again…

  14. Your son sounds wonderful. . .and a lot like mine (who is only four next week). . . I can imagine him thinking the same things as he grows older. . . and, as a former sixth grade teacher, I always appreciated – was drawn to – the sweeter kids, that weren’t ready to be middle schoolers yet, that just wanted to hang onto the childhood as long as they could. . .

  15. OHMYGOSH he sounds just like my 5th grader. He still snuggles with me and always plays with the little kids. Your son sounds so sweet! ❤

  16. What a sweet boy. I could feel the the pull on your heart strings while reading this.

  17. Oscar Wilde said that, by the way. And what a lovely post and child! I regret every lost age. . .my ten-year-old just turned eleven and he’s my youngest so I’ll never have a ten-year-old again. Wah! But my kids are still excited to turn new ages because they don’t realize, as yours does, that the former age is lost forever. He sounds very wise and interesting.

  18. I’ve always been the same way. Always very emotional about life and growing up and such. I’m 36 and still don’t want to grow up, get old, or die. Death is my biggest fear. There is so much to do here on this earth, and so little time to do it in. It seems so unfair that we’re all born to die someday.
    What a sweet boy you have. Love him up as long as you can, mama. One day he will change his tune. At least a little bit, anyway. Despite my constant struggle with it, I did want to grow up just a bit and be able to do some grown-up stuff. And now here I am. 36, married, one son and two step kids; and I want to stop the clock again. If only there were a way.
    Lovely post.

    • thanks. and we are soul sisters. i am torn every day that passes, watching myself and my children, my parents and the world change and age. and all those times long ago are lost. it’s why eat so much ice cream. instant happy. that and lots of hugs and really looking around and appreciating. what else can we do..? but you’re right – so not fair!! 🙂

  19. how amazing that he had that insight at such a young age!!!

  20. I love your kid! Wise and creative and introspective – he’s a keeper! And so are you, mama! This is a beautiful post, well written as always!

  21. My 9yo is the exact same way. It makes me want to cry that she looks ahead with such fear and sadness, already.

  22. I love that saying from Pooh to Piglet. I tell everyone with young children “Don’t Blink”. It’s so sweet and smart and heartbreaking that he already senses what we know.

  23. My son does this too. At 3-4 he was obsessed with Peter Pan and he’d cry when he imagined growing up. Now, at 9, he he has the fear of death…not soon, just someday…

  24. What a wonderful, wonderful story, and so well told. Some kids are born so incredibly wise.

  25. That Peter Pan graphic is just perfect! What a sweet, wise kid!

  26. My son sounds like this too. It’s so hard to watch them be upset by things they should be excited about. My son says he’s never leaving home, never going to college, etc.

    Great story!

  27. oh my WORD do i love this- and that boy! Lovie just turned three and often tells me she wants to be reborn into a baby again. it breaks my heart. i love her and this age so stinkin much and she’ll always be my baby but yes, it’s like she KNOWS. i just really freaking adore this post.

  28. Oh, but she’s out there. The girl who can make him think growing up is not so bad after all.

  29. This is truly, truly beautiful.

  30. This is such a great post! Today more so than ever before, kids are growing up way too fast! I love that he wants to stay little and still loves to play and imagine! This is absolutely what being 10 should be all about! Thank You so much for sharing!

  31. Pingback: You’ll grow up when I’m good and ready | Icescreammama

  32. Pingback: Room to Grow | Icescreammama

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