I recently read in a leading parent’s magazine that this is NOT a good question to ask your children. I can’t remember all the reasons why (I think it may unintentionally harm self-esteem or the likes). What stuck with me is simply that we shouldn’t ask it.
However, I find it to be a most helpful question for me to ask my children. Although the answer doesn’t change unless it’s birthday time (my 3rd child switched from 2 to 3 this week!), hearing them say their age out loud often gives me instant perspective.
It’s like a light goes off in my head…”Oh! She is JUST 5.” I think this technique is most helpful with my oldest. A friend asked me today at church if I will miss Gianna, my 5 1/2-year-old, when she starts full-day kindergarten next month. My instant answer (not all verbalized) is, “No! I will not miss her. I will be thrilled that she will be at school learning and having fun! She will not be subjected to me constantly asking her to act older or to be my personal helper. I think I will value my time with her much more.”
This answer has so much more to do with me than with her. She is a lovely, helpful child who is asked to act way more mature than 5! As the mother of so many little ones, I am often desperate for someone to act “their age”. She is the only one, at the current time, who will not completely melt down upon hearing that it is time to stop playing and pick up the toys. So, to keep peace, I ask her to do way more than her fair share of cleaning. Not fair!!
Another example, she will sometimes gleefully skip in the store and accidentally trip…and I will be so annoyed with her.
Inevitably, her younger siblings will have joined in the skipping, and there will be a pile of preschoolers either tripping (and crying) or having too much fun and running too far ahead of me, etc. In my anxiety, it’s easiest to blame Gianna for introducing skipping to our outing!
I will ask her angrily, “How OLD are you?” (usually because I want her to own the fact that she is acting far too young for her age). Then, she will say that she is 5, and I am instantly reminded how very young she is, and how she was not skipping to irritate mamma, but rather because she is energetic, playful, and happy in her surroundings…a natural reaction is to skip! I should skip more! I should give thanks for a healthy child who likes to skip when she shops!
So, it helps for me to ask Gianna her age. It often stops me in my tracks and helps me to remember to be kinder, more patient, more loving toward a young child who is just being…a young child! Maybe I shouldn’t need to ask it, but it’s often involuntary (perhaps I was asked this a lot as I was also the oldest of children spaced very closely!).
It also helps (although maybe to a lesser degree) to ask my other children. When I hear the answer…2 or 3 or 4…it helps me recognize that the behaviors (although driving me insane) are normal (much to my dismay!). I am the one not acting my age. As the adult, I am called to be the mature one in the stressful situation. I am not to overreact to spilled milk, sibling quarrels, and meltdowns…but, I do…again and again! No one asks me how old I am, but maybe it would help. I would realize how ridiculous I act toward my children when they need a calm, emotionally stable mother the most!
God, please help me to keep perspective during these long days. As the only adult with my children at most times, I am often overwhelmed. I pray for the grace to “remember my age” and to never take for granted what a blessing it is to be the mother of these children (no matter how old!).
Copyright 2012 Trish Bolster