Growing Up Too SoonBy
The Big Girl Chair
This guest post is authored by Sue Major, a mother of four from New Jersey.
The other day I was in Costco when I happened upon a young mom and her daughter “Sarah” who was about three years old and Sarah’s baby brother. Sarah clearly had about the same patience level for the Costco shopping experience that I do. I was about one aisle away from throwing the same tantrum Sarah was throwing. Sarah’s mom in an effort to diffuse the situation said “Sarah if you promise to be good I’ll let you come over here and sit in this big girl chair” Well Sarah lit up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. All was now peaceful in the outdoor furniture section. Normally I would have thought the whole thing was kind of cute but something struck a nerve with me.
As adults we know that spending time in the big girl chair is not all it’s cracked up to be but when we have our first child we can’t wait until they crawl, then we can’t wait until they walk and talk, we can’t wait until they read and we work really hard to get them to all these milestones as quickly as possible because well, it’s exciting and amazing to watch these little wonders grow and change. I did this myself with my first and I realize now I was very different with my youngest. I wanted to keep her a baby for as long as I could. I didn’t care when she walked or talked. I knew she was fine and would learn all these things when she was ready. I let her get messy and be a baby for as long a she wanted. I rewarded her with toys and trips to petting zoos instead of trips to the mall for big girl dresses and shoes.
As they have both grown into teenagers there is a tremendous difference in them today. My oldest while always a quick learner, honor student and fashion diva was very quick to want to experiment in the big girl world. She was always pushing to do the next grown up independent activity…unfortunately that included drinking alcohol. The thing about the big girl chair is that when you get in it before you’re ready there is a risk of getting badly hurt when you try to get off it and mommy isn’t there to catch you before you fall. My older daughter who learned so much so fast fell hard out of that chair… all the way into an emergency room being treated for alcohol poisoning…twice. Most of the big boys and girls she plays with have suffered the same fates, hospitals, trouble with police, the schools etc.
My younger daughter has chosen to still take refuge in the rewards of playing games. She loses herself in soccer and is still happy to be rewarded with trips for ice cream. Most of the time she wears soccer shorts and t-shirts. She has chosen so far not to get in the big girl chair with alcohol even though many of her friends have. There is a struggle inside her though, I know it’s not easy. I can see it. She wants to grow up but she knows some things are still out of her comfort zone. She’s moody and self conscious about her clothes and hair when she’s with her big girl friends. I’ve seen her happiest when she’s giggling with her friends who share her desire to stay little for a while longer. There’s no drama with them. It’s a safe haven and I have vowed to do whatever it takes to encourage that and never say “grow up” when she’s being a brat. She’s acting her age and I try not to forget that because it’s important.
I’m not saying that birth order determines underage drinking. There are so many factors and circumstances and one size does not fit all. I’m just saying maybe offering them the big girl chair is not the best reward.
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