“Let Them Be Little”

Dear Reader:

Every time I visit the grandchildren or they come to see me I say a little prayer…“Dear Lord, please let them stay little…just a little longer.” 

But as hard as I try and as earnestly as I pray…I know it is all in vain. Life just doesn’t work that way. The two-year-olds are the most vocally ardent about their chronological status now…if I call either one my “baby boy” they are quick to correct me…”I’m a BIG BOY” now Boo Boo.” (The smallest in a clan always wants to be older than their youngest position in the family.)

Rutledge always giggles when I tell him that he can’t grow up any more or get any older….”But, Boo Boo, I have to get older and be a big, big boy…sorry!”

Eva Cate takes her birthdays in stride…she isn’t as interested in the numbers as she is in her status…maintaining her reign as the “Matriarch of the Dingle Tribe.” (Soon she will have a new princess in the kingdom to help keep all those Dingle/Turner boys in tow.)

There are so many “freeze-frame” moments when the children are small…I save these photos for rainy days…always brings sunshine back into the room.

I remember that there were so many days, when as a mother, I felt like screaming at Mandy, Walsh, and/or Tommy (and sometimes did) “Oh just grow up.” Even as a teacher, with all the “he said, she said, you said” drama from teaching eighth graders…I would find myself saying “This is all so silly…please make up and then grow up…okay?”

Well, guess what…they did…not because my children or my students necessarily listened to me…Mother Nature waved her magic wand and one day…Poof! they were grown. It all happened so fast…too fast…so lesson learned in round one…Don’t ever wish for children to grow up faster than they already are…or as the “Monkey Paw” saying goes…”Be careful what you wish for…it might come true.”

Some of those students I remember telling to “grow up” did so wonderfully and now help me re-finance, or carry my groceries, or fix my computer…lovely lovely grown “children”…just like my own who are now married and parents…my children and students did grow up…just right!

Erma Bombeck reached the same conclusion as myself when she re-told her similar story in the only way Erma knew how to tell it …with humor.

“No More Oatmeal Kisses”

January 29, 1969

A young mother writes: “I know you’ve written before about the empty-nest syndrome, that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now I’m up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?”

OK. One of these days, you’ll shout, “Why don’t you kids grow up and act your age!” And they will. Or, “You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do . . . and don’t slam the door!” And they won’t.

You’ll straighten up the boys’ bedroom neat and tidy: bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you’ll say out loud, “Now I want it to stay this way.” And it will.

You’ll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn’t been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you’ll say, “Now, there’s a meal for company.” And you’ll eat it alone.

You’ll say, “I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?” And you’ll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti. No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms. No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps. No more clothespins under the sofa. No more playpens to arrange a room around.

No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathroom. No more iron-on patches, rubber bands for ponytails, tight boots or wet knotted shoestrings.

Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby-sitter for New Year’s Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn’t ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.

No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11 o’clock at night. Having your own roll of Scotch tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No giggles in the dark. No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, “Why don’t you grow up?” and the silence echoing, “I did.”


So until tomorrow…the secret to growing up is doing just that.. while never becoming a “grown-up”….but a child inside a “grown-up”… filled with curiosity and adventure until the last breath is drawn. Our last remark: “But why?

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

 * Speaking of keeping the child in us no matter the age…I got tickled watching “Fixer-Upper” yesterday on HGTV with Joanne and Chip. He was cutting up as usual and Jo had just about had it…she finally said in exasperation “Chip, will you PLEASE grow up for about, ummm, one second!” “That’s all and then you can go back to being you..the you I love.”


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to “Let Them Be Little”

  1. bcparkison says:

    Oh how I miss being a mom to young boys ,but now love being that mom to grown men who have their own little people. I think I could add another link to this about .The list that must be done . The car needs washing, the grass needs mowing, the house needs paint ,the plumbing is stopped and are we ever going to take a break? Yes….he is gone and the house is so very empty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky Dingle says:

      We want it all don’t we…and we certainly want some things in life to end …like a root canal…but not all things…like a snuggle in the bed together…yet all things end…and then begin again. Such is life!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jen says:

    My sons are 20 and 17 ….. it has flown by as I knew it would. I have already experienced just some of the empty nest syndrome, but know it will be full-blown someday, and I dread it. When I get irritated with the loud music or the constant barrage of friends, I remind myself that one day I will long for all the noise and drop-in’s and it really does put things into perspective. Beautiful post, thank you.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Life and change…we wouldn’t want life to be stagnant…but we humans sure do hate adjusting to change and yet that is what life is…a series of changes throughout our lives. Thank you for all your support and kind comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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