Rookie Dad: How to Stop Your Child From Growing Up

Back in my senior year of college, as we inched closer to graduation, I clearly remember most of my friends saying how they couldn’t wait for the school year to end. “We’ll be free to get on with our lives and do what we want,” they exclaimed. I also clearly remember how I felt: “No way, man, college can’t be over yet!”
I knew that I had it pretty good: living in a cushy college-owned townhouse; sleeping in until 10 o’clock each morning; stopping into class for an hour, then heading back for a nap or shooting some hoops or just hanging out. I knew that I was having fun and that I wanted to make it last forever.

Well, now let’s jump ahead 13 years. Here I am a stay-at-home dad and I know that I have it pretty good again. I get to live in a comfortable suburban home, shoot some hoops with my two sons during the days and just hang out. I wake up early and don’t take naps, but you can’t have everything, right? Once again, I want to make this last for as long as possible.

The trouble is, time just keeps clipping along, the boys keep growing up and it’s messing with my emotions. We stopped in at the local playground the other day and I hoisted my 3-year-old up into the toddler safety swing. He didn’t fit. I suddenly became aware that my eyes were watering and there seemed to be some sort of lump in my throat. “He just fit in there six months ago — he can’t be too old for the toddler swing already!” my inner voice cried as several moms walked by wondering what was wrong with me. I must admit, I was wondering what was wrong with me, too.

Worse yet, as I relayed this story to my mom, I pulled the old Mike Myers “I’m a little verklempt” routine and had to take a minute to recover. How embarrassing. But I just couldn’t help it. I don’t want my kids to grow up!

So, that gets me to the crux of this column. I realized that it’s up to me to figure out some sure-fire ways to stop my kids from growing up — or at least to slow their childhood years down. And I’m not talking about using any weird Harry Potter spells or FDA-banned pills either. These are five simple, legitimate strategies that you’re free to try, if you so choose. Consider this:
1. Be “boring.” You know the old adage “time flies when you’re having fun.” Well, if that’s true, then start being boring and slow down that clock. Enjoy how wonderfully great those “boring” moments of everyday life can be: a walk in the neighborhood, doing yard work with the kids, dinner with the whole family. Ordinary time spent together makes a family a family.

2. Stop talking or thinking about the future so much. This is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s so fun and easy to imagine what your child will be when he or she grows up or how much fun you’re going to have when you take that big family trip to Europe in 10 years. All of that makes you long for the future, though, and makes the present seem less important. Hear this: Focus on the present!

3. Buy your kids age-appropriate clothes and toys. There’s nothing worse than seeing an elementary school kid walking down the street dressed like a Backstreet Boy and carrying a cell phone. Letting a small child look and act like an older kid makes them, well, older before their time.

4. Realize how lucky you are. Older folks stop my two boys and me all the time in stores. What they tell me is this: “Oh, I remember when my kids were that age. It seems like yesterday, but now they’re in their 40s and living all across the country. Those were the best days of my life.” Whenever crying babies, obstinate preschoolers and overflowing Diaper Genies get to you, know that there are an awful lot of people out there who would love to trade places with you.

5. Tell your kids how much you love them and how proud you are of them and kiss them and hug them every day. This may not slow down their growth, but you’ll make sure that your kids know how much you care about them. And that just might be enough to keep them forever young.

Brian Kantz is not joking — there is nothing worse than seeing an elementary school kid walking down the street dressed like a Backstreet Boy and carrying a cell phone. Brian’s new book, “Stay-at-Home Dad. Stay. Good Boy.,” is available at www.briank