Column: Parents have trouble keeping up with fast-changing kids

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 1, 2001

The hardest part about parenting is that just when you think you have it down, the kid goes and changes on you.

Sunday, July 01, 2001

The hardest part about parenting is that just when you think you have it down, the kid goes and changes on you.

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You’d think I would have seen this coming. I’m aware that people don’t suck pacifiers and watch Teletubbies their whole lives. Yet the whole thing caught me off guard.

I started thinking about this last week, when Jimmy, our dynamic two-year old, was entering about the 20th minute of a hoarse, forceful tantrum. It was the third or fourth time I saw him do it, and I was worried.

He had cried before, but not like this. He had thrown tantrums before, but never this dramatic. I could usually tell when something serious was wrong, or when he was just tired or fussy. But the latest episodes were more disturbing.

He didn’t squint or close his eyes like he used to; instead, his eyes bugged out and he stared straight ahead. His cheeks changed color to match his red-orange hair. Instead of flopping to the ground in classic kid fashion, he stiffened up. When I tried to pick him up, instead of going limp and squirming like I was used to, he stayed stiff.

And his cry was different. Rather than the whiny, yearning cry I’ve been accustomed to, it was a bellowing roar from his throat.

The usual distractions didn’t work. He pushed his cup of milk away and showed no interest in his books or blocks. I was at a loss.

Well, we waited it out and he eventually calmed down and was back to his cheery self. But I was perplexed. Was he sick? The worries kept popping up in my head. Why wasn’t he acting normal? What was wrong with him?

&uot;What is going on?&uot; I asked my wife. &uot;He never used to act like that.&uot;

Then she stunned me with the obvious.

&uot;People change, you know,&uot; she said. &uot;Especially two-year-olds.&uot;

Of course people change. Everyone knows that. But this was my kid. I was just starting to figure him out, and now I’ve got to start all over again?

Well, yes. That’s pretty much how it works.

I used to hear it all the time when parents spoke to each other. The kids change so fast, they’d say. It seems like just yesterday they were babies, they’d say. And more often than not, I’d hear people longing for the simpler days when the kids were babies.

Well, part of that is illusion. No matter what age, having kids is never simple. But at the same time, you look back on every stage with fondness because you get to know the kid in each phase. It’s like you meet a new child every few months, get to know him, and then he’s gone and you’ve got a new one.

More than a year ago, I got to know a baby who liked to be rocked to sleep, who was starting his wobbly travels around the house on two legs, and who liked string-cut green beans and sweet potatoes.

Six months ago, I was introduced to a toddler who knew my name, liked to chase the cats and enjoyed riding on my shoulders as I walked. He would have nothing to do with green beans or sweet potatoes.

Now, we’ve got a little boy who runs to us carrying his favorite books at night, wants to sit in the front seat of the car and prefers to climb onto my back, wrap his arms around my neck and hang on, laughing, as I walk.

In a way, it’s exciting to keep up with his new interests and teach him new things. It’s also a little unnerving, because the kid waiting for me when I come home could be a different boy than the one we tucked into bed the night before.

Now, I’m one of those parents saying it: They just change so fast.


Some people have called to ask us why we’re not in the new Qwest phone book. Our reaction to this was, &uot;What? We’re not in the new Qwest phone book?&uot;

Well, we were supposed to be in the book, but you know how things go. We were one of the numbers that slipped through the cracks, and they’re not about to print 20,000 more books just to get us in. However, we have ensured that our number will be available on directory assistance, and we called to make sure we’ll be in the next McLeod book.

In the meantime, in case you are used to checking the Qwest book for our number, you may want to write these digits on the cover: The general number is 373-1411; for circulation, call 379-3423; for classifieds, call 379-3425; and for the newsroom, call 379-3433.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays.