Thursday evening, after his bath, Teo and I were sitting in his bedroom with all of his pajamas spread out on the floor. I’d casually asked if he wanted to wear the pajamas on the end of his bed or another pair. In his post school day exhaustion, he whined that he didn’t want to wear “…those jammies!” Then he declared, “I want to see all of my choices!” Mateo is an ultra-deliberate decision maker. This fact plus his emotional state set him up for quite the reaction to his pajama dilemma.
Seeing all the pajamas laid out, I took the opportunity to select a few sets that he’d clearly outgrown. They were mostly shorts and t-shirt sets that he hadn’t worn in several months due to our unusually chilly winter. “Oh, these Mickey ones don’t fit anymore. Probably these other ones too,” I said as I gathered three pajama sets in my hands. “Those are my favorites! You can’t get rid of them!” Teo replied. “Honey, you’ve outgrown them, it’s okay to clear them out of your drawer.”
“I don’t want to grow up, Mama!” Teo started to cry. “I want to stay six.”
I started to tell him how growing up is what he’s supposed to do. We’ve had this conversation several times lately and the words rolled right off my tongue. “Teo, God designed us to grow up…”
“I liked being small. I want to stay three, actually.”
“Three? Really? Was three the perfect age?”
“Yes,” he replied as he curled up in my arms.
I signed as a thought suddenly occurred to me: this is really how he feels, he’s mourning the loss of his little boy self. For that matter, I’m mourning it a bit too. Why don’t I stop trying to reason with him and just hold him in my lap while he cries?
We sat, cuddled up on the floor of his bedroom for several minutes. When Dennis came home from work he found us there. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“We’re just cuddling. Teo’s deciding which pajamas to wear.”
Shortly after that, Mateo decided which pajamas most appealed to him and got them on. The rest of the evening he was in great spirits and I was reminded of the simple truth that emotions are like the weather. When we express them or at least stop resisting them, they pass in their own good time. What came out as a reaction to outgrowing pajamas was actually more about being expected to behave like a big kid for the whole day – sitting in class all day and then cooperating with his after school teachers for nine hours. I couldn’t argue with him – life was simpler when he was three.
By letting out his pent of feelings, without being told that he was silly or wrong for feeling them, Teo quickly moved on to the next adventure in his life… in this case, dinnertime.