For reasons that will remain obscure for now, Ava measured Polly’s height yesterday. This is not something we’ve done on a regular basis except at doctors visits, and those numbers go flying out of our minds by the time the doctor moves on to looking in their ears. They have always appeared to be growing at appropriate rates. They’re about average among their peers, maybe even a bit taller though only if you look really closely. Their clothing sizes have progressed as we’d expect as well. Pip’s wearing 8-10’s. Polly’s wearing 6-8’s. With all of these other markers giving us positive returns, there’s been no impetus to keep a close eye on their actual heights. If you’d asked me before yesterday how tall each child is, I’d probably have guessed that Polly clocks in at a little over three feet, and Pip somewhere around four.
That estimate would have been wrong. According to Ava, Polly is now forty-six inches tall. Forty-six inches; as in only two inches below the four foot barrier. That’s incredible. She’s six years old. I didn’t think she’d hit that level until she was at least eight. She’s huge.
Except that she’s not. My expectations were obviously out-of-whack, and that ignorance left me open to being dumbfounded. Again Polly is about the same height as most of her classmates. Four feet must be about average for a six-year-old girl.
All the same that number, forty-six, was a shock. I don’t know how old I was when I passed four feet as a kid, but I remember feeling like it was a milestone. I remember looking in the mirror and trying to imagine what I’d be like when I passed five feet. I must have felt pretty old because in my mind crossing that barrier seemed like a big step towards growing up. To have Polly already approaching that line was something for which I was completely unprepared.
Kids grow up fast. It’s a horrible cliché, and every time I use it (which, with the start of school last week, has been awfully frequent) my stomach churns a bit. But every once in a while something makes me feel that way all the same. I think what’s really at work in this are two discrepancies between the way the kids are actually growing and the way I perceive them to be growing. The first is that when the kids were babies there were obvious developmental milestones: rolling over, crawling, pulling up, saying words, saying sentences, eating solid food, using a spoon, using a toilet, sleeping through the night, running, reading, riding a bicycle. As we ticked through these we always had a sense of what the next one should be, what the next thing we should be looking for. It was a regular check-in for growth. We could anticipate them and look out for them and be excited when they arrived. Growing up was a process of almost daily change, one filled with hurdles to overcome and successes to celebrate.
Now the milestones are more subtle and ambiguous. The kids read a little better than they did several months before. They speak a little clearer. They run a little faster. None of these things are marked by a definitive shift of any sort. None of them contain the same celebratory, “we made it,” kind of sense of achievement. Instead, they’re all sort of impressionistic. We guess that something has changed from one month to the next, but it’s hard to be sure until one of these random markers come along. Last week it was Pip trying out the role of facilitator in a game ofMastermind. This week Polly clocked in at forty-six inches in height. Next week it may be something else. Or nothing at all. We may go several months before something else strikes me.
And this is where the second difference comes into play. It’s largely a corollary to the first, but it’s worth elucidating all the same. For the last two years or so, we’ve been doing mostly the same kinds of things. What I mean by this is that we’ve been getting up at about the same times, eating the same kind of foods, riding bikes places, going to school, doing homework, playing in the yard, etc. The general scope of our activities has followed a regular pattern. The kids like to go to the library and the park. They enjoy swimming and hiking in the summer and going sledding in the winter. They add a few new wrinkles and games to the patterns from time to time and both are both doing things at increasing levels of sophistication but all these things are still fit within a general frame of likes and dislikes that has remained largely unchanged over the past couple of years. This consistency lends itself to a feeling of stasis, even timelessness to a certain extent, as if we can and will keep doing these things this way for eternity (which would be okay by me). Then a reminder comes around – forty-six inches! – that such timelessness is an illusion, and sometimes it takes a few moments to recover my senses.
I’m glad Polly and Pip are growing tall and smart and strong, but, my goodness, what I wouldn’t give to have it all happen just a tiny bit slower.