Matt Knutson: Growing up is a process for parents and child

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, May 18, 2017

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“We’re just going to have to let her have the sunglasses,” I told my wife as we began to witness our daughter’s first public meltdown. Looking back, it wasn’t the best parenting decision, but we were weak, and I worried other parents might start to judge us as our 1-year-old began screaming every time we tried to pry a pair of too-large sunglasses from her tiny fingers. It was someone else’s fault, of course. Whoever decided to put the sunglasses on the floor instead of back on the appropriate display created this disaster for us; if only they were still around to observe it.

Gracelyn was already a little temperamental when we arrived in the store. She kept indicating to us that she wanted to walk, and as soon as her little feet touched the ground, her body would go as limp as a cooked noodle. The only indication that her bones weren’t jelly were her outreaching arms, begging us to pick her back up again. Her tune changed when I plopped her down next to shampoo on the bottom shelf that was in the shape of “Finding Nemo” characters. This girl’s love of fish knows no bounds.

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Finally willing to walk (with shampoo Dory in hand), our family arrived in the baby’s clothing section to see what was on clearance. It took our daughter only a moment of scavenging to find the sunglasses. Soon, she insisted on wearing them. After breaking store rules and cutting off the tag so they could be worn, Gracelyn calmed down long enough for peace to return temporarily. My wife searched for additional sunglasses that might actually fit, as these were a size too large and kept falling off Gracelyn’s face, prompting an unbefitting scowl on a face so young. The princess deemed all appropriately fitting sunglasses were beneath her, thus creating a cycle of peace and war, depending on whether her chosen glasses had fallen off her face yet.

This was the first time where I noticed our daughter expressing her own desire, and it was mystifying. She normally eats whatever we put in front of her (or none of it at all), wears what we decide she should wear and plays with whatever activity we put in front of her. The concept that she may have an opinion of her own had somehow lost its way in my parental mindset. Of course this will just be the beginning of a lifetime of expression — as it should be — though hopefully future opinions will be displayed in a less dramatic fashion.

Having let that sink in a bit, I realized we responded incorrectly to dear Gracelyn’s demands. We gave in, when we should have stood firm. Our home is now host to a pair of sunglasses we never intended on buying for a 1-year-old girl whose face is not yet wide enough to keep them on. Eventually, they will fit, but what if we’ve set some sort of precedent that all our daughter has to do is cry unceasingly and she can get her way? That’s not how I envision her successfully solving problems as an adult, so it’s something we should work on improving now. Also, in the short-term, I don’t want to have to continually spend $5 to make the crying stop.

Sometimes I’m fascinated by this role of parenthood. Just as I finally think I’ve got it down, my daughter makes it painfully obvious that she’s grown into the next stage of independence. Most days, it feels hard to keep up with her pace (literally, she’s running now). Our day care has reminded us that she is transitioning to the next age group, meaning she’ll return to being the youngest in her classroom instead of dominating her peers. We know it’s the right thing to do, but seeing her join a class where everyone is getting ready for naptime by dutifully sitting on their assigned cot seems otherworldly right now. Is she really capable of that? What else is she capable of doing that we haven’t even attempted?

Growing up comes in fits and starts. Some moments we make progress as parents; other moments Gracelyn makes progress as a toddler. As all of us continue to develop, we’ll all become better at this thing called a family. And apparently, we’re now a sunglass wearing family, so I have some shopping of my own to do.

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.