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I don’t like Russian dolls. They are so full of themselves. (I’m tempted to get some Russian dolls and have them in my office just so I can use that joke whenever someone walks in.) But I want to use the Russian doll analogy for our kids. We get this little person, our baby – we get to know them and understand them but then time passes and suddenly (it can certainly seem sudden) we have this bigger person. It’s like a new Russian doll has been placed over the top the smaller one. They are still our child, but the little doll we knew so well is inside this bigger one. And the bigger one resembles the smaller one, but unlike Russian dolls, there are differences and differences can be profound.
When a baby becomes a toddler – a new child arrives. When a boy gets that surge of testosterone at about five he can become really different. When the hormones crash into our children at puberty we wonder if aliens have stolen our real child and left something completely different. The Russian dolls that get added next have curves or facial hair – is our little baby still in there somewhere?
Make friends with you kids over and over again. Make friends with your toddler, and then again with your school age child, your adolescent, your young adult. They change and change and change. You have to keep making contact and building the relationship. You might grieve for the old dolls – so take lots of photos – but the new dolls are beautiful, too, and they desperately need you to get to know them.
Final thought – inside of you is an 18 year old, and a 12 year old, and a seven year old, and a three year old. And that’s why parenting can be so much fun. Your inner child has a playmate!