Growth Spurts

A friend mentioned how hard things have been lately with her three year-old daughter. My heart went out to her immediately. We’ve all been there haven’t we? Wondering if our child’s behavior is a reflection of their disdain love for us or what we are doing wrong.

“She’s probably just going through a growth spurt.”

The words tumbled out of my mouth like I was some sort of parenting expert, which if you’ve been here for any period of time you know is not the case… perhaps you are even snorting at the thought with me. I have no idea if there is scientific evidence to back up the claim that children are more difficult, crankier, and worse behaved when they are in the midst of intense growing, but it makes sense. Their bodies are growing. Energy is being diverted from using manners, controlling impulses, and all around please & thank you use. They are hungry and need the fuel of food and sleep to power the effort of getting bigger.

My source of this parenting nugget came from a reliable source. Nancy is a mother, nurse, artist, and humanitarian. She also paid a portion of my college tuition by way of all the babysitting I did through my teen years for her three daughters. When my own kids go through their phases of ugly behavior, I hear her calm and gentle voice explaining how one of her own has been off and needs a little bit extra TLC, because she is probably going through a growth spurt.

Let’s face it. Couldn’t we all use a bit more TLC when we are going through a rough patch? Never mind the cause, whether it is growing bones or a day at the office that didn’t go as well as it could. When we feel weak, we could use tender loving care. Yes, sometimes we really need an attitude adjustment by way of being told to put our big girl/boy undies on, but when it comes right down to it a gentle hand outstretched is more inviting and less likely to knock us on our asses again (a whole lot less threatening for me).

Her voice in my head reminds me that it is just a phase and will pass as mysteriously as it came. Maybe it gives me a reason to point to in a situation that doesn’t have reasons. It answers the mysterious question of “Why?” with the challenge of proving a negative. The theory points to a perfectly natural, blameless cause that one can’t really get worked up over. More importantly it reminds me that the behavior probably isn’t about me and isn’t necessarily in my control. In my experience, she has always been right. The growth spurt ends and my kids go back to their usual delightful selves. Wearing her nurse hat she would probably also tell me that if it goes on for longer than I think it should that it could be something else and I should reach out for help.

I’m incredibly grateful to Nancy for introducing me to this concept at such a tender age, because I’m pretty sure if I didn’t know this, I would just say growth spurts are my kids being assholes. And really, who wants to be kind and gentle to an asshole? Maybe we aren’t assholes, maybe we all go through growth spurts.

What is the best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received?

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