By Amy L. Hatch
When we got to the amusement park, she was too tall.
It’s a park designed just for kids, with the kind of rides you see toddlers enjoying—boats on a wheel that slowly push through 12 inches of water, babies giggling as they get their first taste of freedom from their parents.
We took her there for the first when she was very small, all ringlet pigtails and a rainbow-striped terrycloth skort.
But this year, when she stood under the bunny statue measuring 50-inches tall—the height limit for riding—she had to duck to fit her head under his gloved hand.
Instantly my girl was glowering. She crossed her arms and harrumphed while her brother gleefully ran from attraction to attraction, from comets to race cars to the miniature roller coaster.
That one the girl could ride, too, but the up-and-down was too much for her and she cried.
The tears didn’t come from the butterflies in her stomach. They came from the harsh realization that she is now too old for something she loved so dearly as a very little girl.
We sat together at a sticky picnic table in front of the concession window. She couldn’t (wouldn’t) be consoled with cotton candy or a bright red Slush Puppie. All she wanted was to squeeze her suddenly too-big body onto the tiny airplanes that flew a genteel six inches off the ground.
Alas, only the train and the merry-go-round were allowable, and those didn’t suit her fancy.
Earlier this summer I marked time by the changes in my children from one summer to the next, watching with delight as they were able to do so many things they—and I—could only watch from the sidelines as their older cousins for so many years.
They were so proud as they rode the waves like big kids and as I relaxed my vigilence, allowing them to taste more freedom than ever before.
But indepenence comes with a price.
My girl, she figured that out for the first time all by herself, when the teenage girl shook her head as my daughter stood against the fence marked with the number 50. “You’re too tall,” she said. “Sorry.”
My daughter tucked her head against my chest and I felt the heat and wetness of her face.
She shouted, “I don’t want to be too old! It isn’t fair!”
And it really isn’t.
She’s in second grade this year, and there are so many more milestones ahead of her. Some of them will be wonderful, amazing for me to watch and exquisite for her to experience.
But some of them are going to hurt—both of us.