My 7-Year-Old Is Afraid of Growing Up and I Don't Blame Her

How'd we get too busy with school, activities, sports, and playdates to enjoy the small moments and time we have?

little girl standing next to mom in lounge chair
Photo: Courtesy of Sara Berger

I’m in my room, leveling my way through a mound of clean laundry. I make a pile of my daughter’s tops, most emblazoned with messages like “In a field of horses, be a unicorn.” Her clothes are still small in my hands, but it seems like only minutes ago when I was fumbling with newborn outfits so tiny they’d defiantly pop from my fold in a sort of onesie tantrum.

Suddenly, I hear cries from my girl’s room. Like Wonder Woman, I race down the hall and push open her door, ready to assuage anything from a bad dream to a painful hangnail. Instead, her sobs catch me off guard: “I don’t want to grow up!” she cries into my collarbone, a single dangling tooth flopping forward with every word.

At first I suppress the urge to laugh—my daughter is 7! She is still far from the responsibility of adulthood. But the truth is, in the past week she has already lost two teeth, and I can’t help but notice that it makes her face look older.

“Remember when it was just you and me?” she asks, reminiscing about the days when her older brother went to school and she and I stayed home together. “I used to sit in the cart while you shopped.”

I’d take her with me on errands to the grocery store or Target, asking her absurd questions that I already knew the answer to, such as “Are these blue-suede booties completely impractical?” (To which she’d equal times nod and shake her head.) When she started school, I missed having my buddy by my side.

“I loved that time we had together,” I tell her, “but I love how smart, sweet, and funny you are now that you’re bigger.”

“I don’t want to get bigger!” she sobs.

“One day you won’t even want me around,” I say, aware that placating her fears only exacerbates mine. I want to hold her close for as long as I can, just as she’s holding on to that stubborn front tooth.

My daughter is right: We are too busy with school, activities, sports, and playdates to realize that the passage of time has become a bunch of checked boxes. With each task accomplished, another day has gone by. In fact, so many unnoticed days have passed that my daughter is outgrowing her clothes once again.

The next day, while showing her grandparents her hanging tooth on FaceTime, it unexpectedly pops out. “Mom,” she yells in surprise, dropping the phone. A look of horror crosses her face. Getting older, usually abstract for a kid, is as tangible as the enamel pebble she holds in her hand. I can see she is about to cry, not from pain but from pure anxiety.

Then I remember our conversation from the previous night. “Let’s do something together to celebrate, just you and me!” I say, and before her tears can fall, she breaks into a toothless smile.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's May 2020 issue as “Growing Up Feels Fast for Kids Too.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here.

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